Month: April 2013

The Government response to the Education Committee report is fudge-tastic

This morning the Government released their response to the Education Select committee report “Careers Guidance for young people – The impact of the new duty on schools” and to be frank, it’s massively disappointing.

The original report took evidence from a range of knowledgeable sources and produced a succinct document with some practical and worthwhile ideas. My optimism when it was released was blogged here:

Today’s document is a big let down.

The Government’s response can basically summed up in three key themes

On the new structure the removal of Connexions and the new duty thus enshrined:

A)    no matter what you’re all saying, we’re still right

On the huge variable in provision that is now beginning to emerge:

A)    we’ll wait for the Ofsted thematic review on Careers to tell us that schools love to impress Ofsted when they come around

On future alterations:

A)    The NCS contract is up for renewal in 2014 and by then there’ll be lots of destination data so we might faff around the edges then

All of the excellent proposals in the Committee’s report are ignored or rebuked.

They shy away from doing to more to require consistency between Local Authorities (presumably as they’re not quite sure where these responsibilities will lie with the growth of academy chains),

they refuse to believe that Ofsted will be the main driver of change and hope that the proliferation of destination statistics will inform parental choice and, in turn, school’s IAG offers,

they rebuke the idea of an annually published careers plan by schools as bureaucracy,

they say their hands are tied in regard to the National Careers Service as it’s contract runs to 2014 and only then could changes be made,

they reject calls for teachers to take regular CPD to enhance their knowledge of modern workplaces,

they refuse to enlarge the remit of the National Apprenticeship Service to promote Apprenticeships in schools,

and they kick into the long grass of the Ofsted review conclusions the call for face to face guidance to be made a right for all.

The essential paragraph is here:

“The report emphasises top-down accountability and calls for Ofsted to play a stronger role in inspecting the quality of careers provision. Ofsted have indeed confirmed that approach to the Committee. While Ofsted inspections are a key accountability mechanism, and one focused on outcomes, the report could have made more of the important role that local accountability has in driving improvement. Destination Measures play a key role here, as the report recognises, and schools and colleges will also wish to show parents and students the career and work-related activities they offer to support young people to help inform their choices.”

as it reaffirms the Dfe’s desire to move away from central direction and allow provision to be moulded by parental choice across all areas of education including Careers IAG. A strong structure of impartial IAG spread across 14-19 pathways and providers could truly have ensured that the funding following the student went to courses, providers and outcomes with the best possible chance of success for the individual.

I await the forthcoming Ofsted review on Careers with little hope that it will alter the path already set.

What schools are looking for from independent Careers IAG practitioners

A week ago I attend my first Career Development Institute event. It was a day long conference entitled “From Student To Professional Careers Adviser.” I wanted to attend as I am currently working my way through the Level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance and Development at a pace somewhat slower than the forthcoming approach of the next ice age.

Anyway, it was a good day with a mix of presentations on practice and news updates. What struck me during the day was that, from approximately 25 attendees, I was the only one taking the Level 6 qualification, all of the other eager students were studying the Post Graduate Diploma. It was a room with the fullest stretch of different levels of experience either in schools or with adult clients but all with the same shared sense of keenness to start utilising their new qualifications with the full confirmation of the CDI Professional’s Register behind them out in the real world of careers work.

On this theme, the workshop that sparked this blog post was a presentation given by David Ryde, a recent graduate of the Post Grad qualification entitled, “Planning for the Future.” David spoke about his recent experience of becoming an independent careers professional offering services to schools and he compared and contrasted the benefits and negatives of looking for a stable role or starting your own business. The workshop really opened my eyes to the moment of change in the careers workforce currently evolving across the country. A lot of experienced practitioners, perhaps recently cut adrift from a Connexions type service, are being joined by newly qualified people, tempted by opportunities in an emerging market as schools begin to engage with the new duty placed upon them. And, as the CDI and Ofsted begin to lay down both sides of the regulatory boundaries that will help shape that market, these people are hoping to position themselves in pole position when opportunities in schools do arise either in salaried type roles or as an outside agency offering services to the school. In fact this thread from @Developmeant on Linkedin is a snapshot of exactly this situation

A massively important part of this equation which I want to cover here is what schools would be looking for from any relationship with an “outside” careers worker. No matter the remit, scope or scale of the contract with the school(s) there are some things which sole trading careers practitioners might want to consider.

  1. Your rate per day – this is vital. Don’t hide it away behind some guff about “bespoke services” on your website or expect the school to make any headway with you without knowing the brass tacks of the cost. The pot of money that Headteachers have to spend is tightening very quickly
  2. Realise that the organisational structures around schools is rapidly changing – academy chains and soft federations are springing up all over the place. This might benefit you as, once you’re in, good word will spread across schools quicker and bring you more work but you might also find that this leaves individuals schools much less flexibility to organise solutions just for them.
  3. Schools get bombared with companies offering services – A letter or email to a generic school admin account isn’t going to get you much work. Schools like people they know or have heard good things about from their local contacts – be prepared to offer days or presentations for free to get known
  4. And don’t expect your qualification or CDI membership or Matrix accreditation to open any doors either. This whole market is very new for schools and there won’t be many Senior Leaders that have the vaguest idea of what those logos on your letter or email even stand for. With time and the dedication to high professional standards from the newly formed CDI, this will change but, for now, it will be about personal contacts
  5. So, find the gatekeeper – every school will have someone with Careers or Work Related Learning under their umbrella of responsibility so get their ear
  6. Know the local progression routes inside out, forget your children’s birthdays and memorize these instead. Have contacts at those Colleges or Sixth Forms or Training Providers and sing about those contacts
  7. In fact, know the school – the forthcoming annual increase in the amount of student destination data for each school that will be publicly available will make it much easier for independent careers professionals to approach a potential client school with an outline of what good IAG could do to impact those destinations
  8. Be patient – in the whole, schools are not very responsive organisations – we run on very structured timetables. School calendars are written and organised 12 – 18 months in advance and, whenever something is put on for students, it takes a miracle of negotiation and collaboration to make sure it doesn’t clash with an exam or drama trip or moderation visit or anti-smoking presentation or just the everyday learning which has to take place. Lots of stuff happens in schools everyday. Don’t expect quick decisions
  9. Know the language – those of you that have worked in education before will be at a massive advantage because of the amount of terminology that starts flying past your ears as soon as you walk into a modern school. Know your CIC from your SEN from your Ever-6

I think it’s clear that for anybody wishing to establish themselves in a region as a independent careers worker without existing school contacts it is going to take significant effort to find success. Of course it can and has been done but it won’t be long before large-scale education resource companies such as Pearson or CfBT really start to look at this sector to see if they can corner the developing market and when they do, it will only make it much harder for independents to find a way in.

The Nfer discussion panel on Pre-NEETs misses a trick

Earlier @pigironjoe tweeted this link to an Nfer expert discussion panel on the issue of NEETs

It’s a worthwhile watch as the participants clearly have great experience in the area and discuss the many issues that lead to NEET outcomes sensitively and with knowledge.

Some of those issues discussed include:

The lack of school/employer engagement with each other

The second tier regard vocational pathways are held in

Confusing and miscommunicated pathways

A lack of impartial Careers IAG

The thin knowledge of routes and expert career IAG across school staff

The decline in pre 16 work experience

The fear of a move towards a more academic based curriculum that doesn’t take the less motivated student with it

A lack of local collaboration between agencies and education institutions

What isn’t discussed but should have been:

The lack of parental input or interest in their child’s progression

Anyway, I still found it a frustrating watch as, despite grappling with all of these complex issues for an hour, nobody seemed to have noticed that they were given a really good solution to all of these problems at about the 10.20 mark.

At this point in the video a Kelly Kettlewell, a Research Manager at Nfer, explains the preliminary findings from a small number of pre-Neet programmes at a group of schools.

She says,

“there did seem to be particular approaches which transcended all the projects and were seen to be effective by the staff and students and these were having strong relationships between the staff and the students, offering the students one to one support…”

And there you have it. It may not fit in a graph in an overblown research paper but that’s your anti NEET combat solution right there.

Have people in schools who are enthusiastic about their role and can communicate and build relationships with young people so that those young people not only receive scheduled individual assistance but also seek it out from staff at their own behest. 

The 2012 destination figures for 2012 Luton school leavers show that, of 55 students seeking employment, education or training, my school supplied 1.

The year on year destination data shows that, while every other high school in Luton increased year on year, our NEET figures did not. Our 2008 leavers NEET figures did not increase in Autumn 2009 or 2010 or 2011. Why? When those 2008 leavers hit a problem out in the real world, they came back to school to seek help. Those relationships were strong enough for them to rely upon when they needed them. “Boomerang kids” my Headteacher termed them when we spoke to the Authority about the data.

What helps this?

Low staff turnover

A community ethos to the school

A strong tutor group system embedded in the pastoral and behavioural care

A dedicated pastoral team

A dedicated careers base in school open at times suitable for the young people and comfortable for them to use

A member of staff based in school – known to students, in front of them in lessons, assemblies, parents evenings and individual sessions that other staff can refer students to when they feel it is suitable

But that’s it. That’s the first prevention step. All of the rest, the advocates for employer contacts, the networks, the expertise of local routes stems from the enthusiasm of those people building those “strong relationships” and offering that “one to one” support.

Is this a naïve point of view? Probably

Am I distilling a complex issue down to an overly simple solution? Maybe

Am I sheltered by the fact that I only have to ensure that 200 young people are progressing onto suitable pathways each year rather than find the structures that would do the same for a nation’s worth? Absolutely

But I do think there’s a strong case to make that those individual practitioners working in great schools are the foundation stones upon which any other needed preventative NEET structures can be built and that research outcomes (a pre Neet check list is mentioned in the video) are only useful to a point. Get the right people in those roles in schools. 

Why take two Careers policy documents into the shower when just one will do?

There where many sensible and welcomed recommendations in the Education Select Committee report “Careers Guidance for Young People: The Impact of the new duty on schools.”

It seems that one of those has been acted upon.

41.  We believe that Government could do more to promote consistency in the offer to young people through central guidance. We note that the Minister was not opposed to the proposition of combining the two documents into one, if there was “broad consensus around that”.[49] We consider that this would help to encourage consistency between what was offered in different schools and different areas, and therefore we recommend that the statutory guidance and practical guide be combined in a single document. References to “statutory guidance” in the rest of this report should be taken to mean this unified document.

Has resulted in an updated and combined version of the two documents being published.

After the report came out, you can almost imagine the conversation in the Dfe.

That careers report, what are the easy fixes?”

Well, there’s two documents we’ve put out….and they want only one…”

But enough of the sniping, it’s a good document with clear intentions and practical suggestions for implementation.

It also includes a few tidbits to keep an eye on in future:

  1. Point 9 – Sixth Forms and FE Colleges will be getting their own version of this guidance
  2. Point 12 – There’s this thing, it’s called the National Careers Service, it’s got a phone line, you can use it if you want, meh…feels a bit shunted to the sidelines already
  3. Point 13 – includes the sentence that will give most schools pause for thought.

 In year 8, information should include options available at age 14 such as University Technical Colleges, Further Education Colleges, Sixth Form Colleges and Studio Schools. 

The first steps in regulating a competitive market for students moving into KS4

  1. Point 15 – There seems to be more emphasis on schools “should” secure face to face guidance for vulnerable or disadvantaged children – I think this shows were the red line for Ofsted will be once they start inspecting schools career provision from September
  2. Point 22 – is vital for those with KS5 provision 
  3. Point 23 & 24 – I think this shows where Ofsted will want a school to impress them on inspections by proving that they go ‘above and beyond’ by providing evidence of their student visits to and links with FE, Sixth Forms, UTC’s, HE etc

So, it’s there, it’s been updated and careers leaders in schools should not only be acquainted with it but get a copy in front of their Senior Leadership links soon.