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.
- 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.
- 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.