Month: February 2013

Knock, knock….here’s OFSTED!

I’m jumping the gun a bit with this blog post as I, along with everyone else, should wait for both the Ofsted survey into how schools are reacting to the new duty to provide impartial Careers IAG and the adjusted Ofsted framework mentioned below BUT, it’s half term so what you gonna do?

Today the unamended transcript of of Sir Michael Wilshaw’s appearance in front of the Education Select Committee to present Ofsted’s annual report was published. Included is a little nugget that the Association of Colleges quickly jumped on and might mean a lot for the future of Careers IAG in schools.

I’ve quoted the relevant questions here:

Q27 Pat Glass: Can I move off the agenda slightly and ask you a different question? When Matthew Hancock, the Minister, appeared before us recently, we were looking at careers advice and guidance, and he said he was looking to Ofsted to inspect and monitor that. I pointed out that Ofsted had said very clearly that they did not see it as their role to inspect the statutory duty in schools, and asked him if he was going to have a word with you. Has he had a word with you about it?

Sir Michael Wilshaw: Matthew might want to come in here. My view is that it is a good idea to devolve this funding to schools.

Q28 Pat Glass: There is no funding being devolved to schools; the only thing that is being devolved is the statutory duty.

Sir Michael Wilshaw: Yes. It is important that we do monitor it effectively. It is really important that impartial advice is given to students on progression routes, and I am not sure that is the case. In our adjustment to our inspection framework from September, we will give the inspection of careers advice a priority.

So, jump for joy or hide under the table but, either way, Ofsted are coming.

Now, there’s three points I think are worth making from those answers:

  1. I might be reading far too much into what may be a slip of the tongue but, Sir Michael’s first answer, doesn’t fill me with confidence as he gets two things wrong. As Pat Glass MP quickly points out, there was no funding allocated to schools to implement the Careers duty and it probably wasn’t a good idea to devolve this responsibility to schools in the first place – at least nobody who spoke to the Committee in the recent sessions on the issue thought so and the resulting Committee report REALLY didn’t think so. So I’m not wholly convinced that he’s got a strategic handle on it but that might not matter anyway as Ofsted does have a lead inspector for Careers

so he’s going to be relying on his staff knowing their onions from their Super’s developmental theory.

  1. Having just been through a visit from Ofsted to look at our Careers guidance work in school, I can guess at what this might look like during an inspection. A full school inspection is a busy and complex process. Under the new framework a lot of lessons are monitored and the team of inspectors will want to be out and about, around school and talking to students. I can imagine that sitting in a room and interviewing staff about “what they say they do” isn’t going to be their approach. They’re going to want a concise Self Evaluation of your Careers provision in school, perhaps with particular mention of your structures to cater for vulnerable students such as possible NEETS or SEN students or Children in care etc ready for them as they walk through the door. And then they’re going to talk to parents and students to see if what you say you do, you actually do. If there are discrepancies between the feedback they’re getting…that’s when they will make negative judgements.

Once the adjusted inspection framework is published there will be plenty of Senior Leaders in schools asking their Careers people what have they got ready if Ofsted were to walk through the door. To be prepared for this I would suggest getting your Careers events on the school calender so the inspector can see the program of events you run, have student feedback or questionnaire returns about their experience of the IAG the school offered (this is something I know I need to work on), know your destination statistics and have an honest and up to date self evaluation document with strengths and areas to improve clearly defined.

  1. When I heard of this development my reaction was something akin to

There is nothing that will get a majority of leaders in schools to focus on an issue quicker than the clear promise that Ofsted will come looking at it. For the duty on schools to provide impartial IAG to succeed it always needed the weight of Ofsted to monitor it. As I opened with I may be jumping the gun, but there’s potential for this little titbit from Sir Michael, followed by the Ofsted survey and the adjusted framework, for Careers work in schools to build a momentum of importance over the coming months and place it closer to the forefront of school’s Senior Leaders planning. With that more central importance comes the responsibility of inspection and that can only be a good thing. 

My school was part of the Ofsted commissioned survey into careers guidance under the new duty and all I got was this blog

It’s been an exciting week.

Last Friday we got a call letting us know that today, we would welcome an Ofsted Her Majesty’s Inspector to view our careers information, advice and guidance practice in relation to the 2012 duty to secure impartial and independent IAG.

We were sent an email with a letter and a link to an online survey for parents in years 9, 10 & 11 to complete. We were asked to email some documentation before the day. 

Right, gulp, focus.

Two immediate thoughts.

  1. Hi, Mr Ofsted, you do realise that this time of year is MANIC for careers workers in schools as it’s college and sixth form application hand in time. My lunchtimes and break times are spent calming groups of slightly panicked teenagers that, yes, block capitals does actually mean BLOCK CAPITALS and reminding them of all the good discussions we had in our face to face meetings, the tasters, the careers fairs… So thanks for that.
  2. Why us? You’re only visiting 60 schools to survey their reactions to a duty designed to stop the funnelling of Year 11s into the school sixth form. And guess what, we don’t have a sixth form. Traditionally, only one secondary school in Luton has had a sixth form. On face value, we’re not a very good case study to see if the duty is really having an impact on school behaviour

Anyway, it was happening and immediately we were very positive about it. We hoped to use the day to show some of the great work the team at the school did and knew we had a good structure with talented people in place.

The day went very well. We were asked challenging questions but gave good answers backed up with documentation, data and student testimony. You don’t receive a grade, just feedback on findings and the feedback was very positive and a real testament to the hard work and dedication of all of the staff at the school but, writing this, I wanted to consider how our experience and might give insights into the findings of the final report.

Discussions throughout the day covered many topics from partnership working, to what impartiality means in a school without a sixth form to the impact of our work on destination data, from employer links to the recent Education Select Committee report on careers guidance but throughout the day the questions returned to our offer for our vulnerable students. How we structure the face to face guidance and pastoral support they receive to make worthwhile, aspirational and stable transitions onto the next stage of their learning or career. Now, this shouldn’t be a surprise, since it’s written on the front of the PDF in that link up the page that they focus “particularly” how the duty has impacted IAG work with those students but it did remind me that quality IAG for all is still an aspiration above the expected and required. I hope the final report doesn’t conclude that, because a lot is done for those students, then things must be ticking over nicely for the rest and gloss over weaknesses in school’s reactions to the duty.

Discussions with students were important. Their experiences of tasters, visits, visiting speakers, careers fairs, face to face sessions and work experience fed heavily into the final feedback. Which is great because their experiences of the range of provision they have had, can’t be faked. It has to have been there throughout their school experience and for the survey to get a real insight into careers work in schools, inspectors should give time to listen to this and give suitable weight to the student’s evidence.

I look forward to the final report and will be very interested to see the range of evidence and experiences the inspectors will have had.

Oh. One final thing. A prediction – The National Careers service, in regard to it’s offer to schools and young people, isn’t going to come out of this well. 

Edit – Update –

Today I spoke with a Teaching Assistant at our school who has a daughter in Year 11. She took a look at the survey Ofsted had asked us to send all parents of children in years 9, 10 & 11 alongside the visit from an inspector last week. She gave me a run down of the some of the questions, mostly asking parental opinions about how well they felt the school supported their children with choices around careers – all sensible stuff. But then she explained a problem. One question particularly asks what route her daughter will take after Year 11 and asks for a box to be ticked next to one option from a series of choices. None of those choices, it seems, offer the option of a Sixth Form College. Listed are choices such as “School Sixth Form” or “Another School Sixth Form” or “Further Education College” etc. Unfortunately, as I’ve explained above, these aren’t worded to take this into account. Our TA explained that she wasn’t sure what to put and typed in “independent Sixth Form” in an “Other” box. If lots of parents repeat this, depending how many schools in the 60 visited don’t have their own Sixth Forms, then the results in the final Ofsted report might be very unreliable.