Month: January 2013

Careers guidance for young people: The impact of the new duty on schools – Education Committee Report – aka Graham Stuart says whoa there pickle

Published this morning is this report

from the Education Select Committee who, over a number of sessions, listened to the great and the good about what had happened to Careers services for young people since the demise of Connexions (which always seems to be followed with cries of “Boo! Hiss! Was rubbish!” these days) and the placement of a statutory duty on schools to acquire impartial careers advice for their students.

And, to get to the point, it’s a document with some very good bits. Some of the suggestions are what should have been put in place right from the start. There’s plenty of recommendations that I think would move careers advice forward in schools. It is clear about what is currently working and what isn’t and, in an all too rare quality from Government documents, it knows it’s stuff.

A few of the highlights

31.  The Government’s decision to transfer responsibility for careers guidance to schools is regrettable. 

It may be regrettable but it’s happened. The Report acknowledges this and quickly moves onto what should now be done to shore up the current mess.

46.  We commend the efforts made by some local authorities to support their schools in taking on the new duty, particularly by working with them to form consortia and partnerships to procure independent and impartial careers guidance. We recommend that the Government’s statutory guidance is strengthened to emphasise the benefits of this approach.

This is good in theory but won’t work in reality. Local Authorities and schools are currently picking their way through the political minefield left by the mass academisation of the secondary school system and there is much which both parties are unsure who is responsible for or who can intervene with what methods. Many Local Authorities are still unclear over their remit or responsibilities of intervention in academies which are falling below the GCSE floor standards or receiving poor Ofsted inspections. If the two groups are still finding their feet with such basic responsibilities of local school governance as that, than careers IAG will have to wait.

56.  We note the disconnect between the Minister’s view of the role of Ofsted in enforcing accountability on schools through its inspection framework, and Ofsted’s own view. The limitations which Ofsted set out to us—the fact that its inspections do not make a clear judgement on careers guidance provision in schools, that it does not inspect against statutory compliance in this area and that it does not routinely inspect all schools—means that the Ofsted framework is not a credible accountability check on the provision of careers guidance by individual schools.

As they say on the internet – BOOM. This is a massively important point for me. All of this is just fluff if it isn’t regulated in any meaningful way and, currently, the Schools Regulator doesn’t think it should be regulating Careers IAG. But the Minister for Skills thinks they do. There needs to be a solution to this, el pronto.

59.  We conclude that destination measures as they currently stand are not effective for ensuring that schools meet their statutory duty.

Yep, agree with that too. It’s useful data for adapting in school practice and for parents to consider outcomes but it doesn’t answer all of the questions the Dfe want it to.

63.  We recommend that the Department for Education introduces into the statutory guidance a requirement for schools to publish an annual careers plan, to include information on the support and resources available to its pupils in planning their career development. Schools should be required to review the plan systematically on an annual basis, taking into account the views of students, parents, employers and other learning providers.

Monsieur Stuart, now you’re just showing off. I love that idea. Schools are now required to publish lots of specific policies and utilise ever spangly websites to do so. A Careers Plan would be easy to add to these and very worthwhile.

74.  We recommend that the remit of the National Careers Service is expanded to enable it to perform a capacity-building and brokerage role for schools. As part of its capacity-building role, the National Careers Service should work with individual schools in designing their annual careers plan of provision for careers guidance as well as provide schools with local labour market information. Clearly, this would have funding implications and so we further recommend that the Department of Education instructs the Skills Funding Agency to cost the options of the National Careers Service remit being expanded in this way. 

Fine, sensible suggestion. Many schools will find the Duty too much of a burden or consider that they do not have experience staff in the area so they will look to outsource and any expertise or impartiality in this area would be welcomed by schools. But there needs to be flexibility as well. Some schools or consortia of schools have reacted quickly to the Duty and put in place robust and interesting systems to embrace the opportunities on offer to their students. These schools shouldn’t be asked to restart again with a one size fits all model.

81.  Access to face-to-face guidance is an integral part of good quality careers guidance. All young people should have access to such provision from a qualified, independent provider, should they choose to take up the opportunity. We recommend that a minimum of one personal careers interview with an independent adviser who is not a teacher should be available for every young person and that this is made explicit in the statutory guidance.

Lovely stuff.

86.  Websites are a valuable source of information about careers for young people. They cannot, however, replace face-to-face guidance, nor are they sufficient in themselves to fulfil the requirement on schools to provide independent, impartial guidance. To ensure that schools do not over-rely on directing their students to websites, we recommend that the Department for Education amends the statutory guidance to schools to make it clear that the signposting of independent websites is insufficient to meet their statutory duty.

Even lovelier stuff!

93.  We welcome the Government’s support for the increased involvement of local employers in careers guidance in schools, which is vital for effective careers provision. We recommend that schools be required to set out in their careers plans their arrangements with local employers and how they intend to enhance them.

Schools wearing their links with local employers as a badge of honour is something I’ve blogged about before and will make more sense as Studio schools and University Technical Colleges expand and compete for students at KS4.

109.  The Government’s decision to remove the statutory duty on schools to provide careers education and work-related learning has been heavily criticised by witnesses to our inquiry. We are persuaded of the benefits of both these former provisions and we recommend that the Government’s statutory guidance to schools is strengthened to require schools to provide careers education and work-related learning as part of their duty. 

*Insert picture of me dancing for joy*

Now all that needs to happen is for the Dfe to listen and to implement. The ball is in Michael Gove’s court. 

Traineeships – post 16 Work Related Learning for those who need it

Another week, another new announcement from the Dfe. This week, it’s the Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock, who gets to use the Department’s Telegraph Education Section batphone and announce a new initiative. In fact, as the Telegraph Education Editor is called Graeme Paton, I wonder if the Manadrins at the Dfe call it the “Pat-phone.”

The Department is proposing a new Post 16 route called “Traineeships” for young people who are not ready for the world of work and learning that modern Apprenticeships demand.

The consultation document is here:

and I would encourage everyone who works in IAG for young people to respond or at least consider the important issues it raises.

After reading it part of me did despair. It was, after all, this government that did away with the statutory requirement for schools to provide Work Related Learning to students and yet here they are proposing a Post 16 route offering with employment skills and work placements as they clearly feel there is demand for such skills.

The questions to consider in the consultation are below. There’s some I don’t have the experience to answer so I’ve not offered anything on those. As ever would be interested to hear your thoughts.

Question 1: What are your views on the elements that are essential for an

effective programme to support young people to prepare for

Apprenticeships and other jobs?

I think your proposed model is a solid starting point. Time and time again business organisations such as the CBI have asked for the education establishment to make concrete strides to establish programs to enhance the soft skills which they so desire alongside actual real world work experience. I am also encouraged by the inclusion of careers guidance in the flexible support strand – equipping this cohort of young people with the skills to manage their own career research and decisions would be an extremely valuable investment.

Question 2: Should a guaranteed interview be part of the core content of

a Traineeship?

Yes – employer input would be clearly beneficial here but as long as the scheme provider was able to organise a suitable person who was new to the young people this would be close enough to reality for the activity to work. I would also encourage the use of videos on websites such as Monster interview to help young people prepare.

Question 3: What makes work placements high quality and effective?

The employer being able to spare time to assist the young person. Young people soon see through placements in which they have been hired as cheap labour to perform repetitive and basic tasks and quickly become demotivated. Regular visits to the placements from the Traineeship provider need to be part of the quality control. Of course the young people’s expectations need to managed so I would suggest that Traineeship providers are asked to be upfront and clear about the work placements they are able to source.

Question 4: Are you aware of other evidence from existing programmes

that demonstrates the effectiveness of these elements?

Question 5: How could Traineeships best complement what is already

available for young people, simplify our offer and avoid unnecessary


Many schools and FE Colleges provide excellent schemes of Work Related Learning and, despite funding cuts, many schools still offer work experience in KS4. The cohort of young people that Traineeships are seemingly to be aimed at needs to be clear to all stakeholders and local providers will need to communicate clearly with both schools, Colleges and Local Authority guidance services so the right young people are signposted to their provision.

Question 6: What are your views on the proposed Traineeships model?

Are the core components right? Is the balance between flexibility and

specification correct?

This is very similar to question 1. Although I would caution you to learn from the experience of past Apprenticeships funding rules which allowed explotation of the system. The positve changes in the regulations to secure a higher quality of offer for young people should be repeated with Traineeships.

Question 7: What are your views on the right age range for the

programme (Paragraph 21)?

The age range seems logical. I would point out though that if Traineeships are to last 6 months, then a young person completing the course soon after school might find themselves between provisions. Many FE courses don’t start until the new academic year in September and once young people have been out of formal learning or training for a period it can be much harder to re-engage them.

Question 8: What are your views on the right duration for the programme

(Paragraph 24)?

And yet, extending the elements of the scheme would be testing on both the patience of young people keen to start what they perceive as the ‘real’ Apprenticeship and the financial backing of their parents. Substanial support would need to be in place to ensure that drop out rates are sky high if the scheme is stretched longer than 6 months.

Question 9: What other elements of flexible content would you expect to

be added to the core locally?

UTC’s and Studio Schools have already shown that local employers can take a fundamental involvement in local education provision and they have built on local contacts that FE colleges and Sixth Forms had already established. Perhaps Traineeship providers can be encouraged to utilise such links and even base some of their work related elements at these facilities where available.

Question 10: What are your views on the most effective routes for

delivering Traineeships? Do the funding systems set out in Paragraph 27

provide sufficient flexibility to achieve this?

Question 11: How can we ensure that Traineeships are a high quality

route which delivers real progression for young people but minimises

bureaucracy for employers and providers (Paragraph 30)?

Question 12: The success of Traineeships will rely on employers offering

high quality work placements. How can we best support and encourage

employers to offer these? What will employers see as the benefits of being

involved in Traineeships?

There are already a number of financial incentives for employers to offer Apprenticeships. Perhaps these could be increased on a sliding scale when employers accept a young person onto one of their Apprenticeship schemes after the young person has successfully completed a Traineeship with them thus providing an incentive for employers to properly invest in the long term continuous development of young people. 

Level 6 Career Guidance Diploma – Not drowning but waving…

I’m currently completing the Level 6 OCR Careers Guidance Diploma. Like all NVQ’s, it’s a competency based qualification based on a folder of evidence you produce and collect through your working practices to fulfill both compulsory and chosen units.

Some of it so far has been very interesting, other bits have been quite testing (Unit 3 – I’m looking at you) and I can very much see the benefit of it, especially working in a school environment with young people. For those of us who work in secondary schools, there is a conflict to manage between the client centered approach of IAG and the need to encourage young people who are on the path to becoming independent but aren’t there yet.

So I thought I’d post some hints and tips for those either doing the Level 6 or thinking of embarking on it. But, these hints come with small print.

I’ve heard of other groups completing the course in 3 months. I’ve been doing it for about 12 months and I reckon I’m about halfway through. It’s taking me a loooooong time.

Bearing that in mind:

1. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security with the time needed to dedicate to the course. Competency based qualifications can sometimes be sold as, essentially, photocopying the odd bit of your regular daily paperwork and sticking it in a folder. Hey presto! Qualification!

Nope. Not like that. There’s plenty of original work that needs to be produced or harassed out of busy line managers. Make sure you’ve got the time.

(And, I know, here I am writing a blog and moaning about not having enough time. King of procrastination)

2. Prepare your key colleagues and line mangers – you will be calling on them to write witness testimony for you. Let them know requests are coming and be clear about what you want from them for each piece.

3. Unit 3 is the one with the essays. It’s a slog but one which I found more intriguing the more I read and, in the end, really had to reel myself in from writing too much and sticking pigheadedly to the style of essay writing that got me through University. On one point I had to reverse, stop what I was doing and start again because it wasn’t what our course tutor had requested and it wasn’t fulfilling the unit criteria.

4. Before you start, think through your regular month by month work activities and plan which of those will produce observation or evidence opportunities for certain modules. My academic year runs a pattern, September to December is Year 11s and college/Sixth Form/apprenticeship applications, January to March is Year 9 option choices and March through to the summer is Year 10 work experience. Think through which activities you will be running at these points and what evidence that might produce. For example, I run University awareness raising group works and trips for Year 9 in January so that would be a great observation example for Unit 12 “Assist clients to apply for learning, training and work” while Unit 7 “Work with other agencies for the benefit of the client and the organisation” would be better covered with observations of the planning meetings of our Year 11 careers fair in October.

5. Stationary is fun! Invest in a proper folder with colour coded inserts and those clear, plastic pockets – not only will it help your tutor navigate your folder to see any “stories” you want to tell but it will also help you find documents when you need to.

6. Stories – certain Units really work best by using your evidence to tell a story. I’m doing a case study for Unit 5 “Explore and agree the career guidance and development needs of clients so documents such as meeting records and emails relating to the client are very useful to lead the assessor through the procedure you followed. Using lots of different documents to tell a story can be useful for lots of different Units though, if, for example, you wrote a guidance booklet for students or a particular group of clients if would be fantastic to have emails of feedback on the booklet or evaluation sheets from clients suggesting alterations which you then acted on and the updated drafts of the booklet.

7. Don’t be scared of professional discussions. They’re a time effective way of getting across your knowledge, experience and working practices relating to the Unit so, if your course leader offers, jump at the chance and book them in early. My course tutor suggested a recorded discussion as a suitable method for evidencing Unit 1 “Preparing to work in the career information, advice and guidance sector” and it was very useful for setting out how my role fits within the wider school community. Careers workers in schools taking this qualification are each going to have slightly different duties and it’s just as valuable that the course leader has your particular situation set up to mould your folder around what you do.

As ever, if you’re taking the Level 6 qualification or thinking about it then get it touch to share your own tips!