Careers Support vs Careers Independence

When to let go?

A few months back, during the feedback for one of my Level 6 face to face observations, a point was made that highlights an interesting tension in careers work for teenagers.

During the meeting with the student, she mentioned that there was potential for her family to move overseas once she had finished school. In fact, plans were advanced enough that the family had even identified a couple of possible Colleges she might attend but we were both unclear about how her English qualifications would transfer into the new system. So, we went online, found the College and their admissions department and, together, drafted an email to write to them asking for clarification. I ended this part of the session by making a note in the student’s contact book (like a school diary) to come and see me a week later to let me know if the College had replied.

Later in the feedback session, my assessor and I had a conversation about the balance between offering advice & guiding the client’s future behaviour and ensuring that they enact what had been discussed. For me this conversation highlighted a source of tension with providing Careers IAG for young people and the ideal of IAG that is exhorted by the Level 6 and practised with adult clients.

Where do you draw the line on how much you actually do for them and how much they do for themselves?

This article reminded me of this conversation:

“It’s not our place to teach them that. They’ve got to learn”

As a head of department this phrase used to drive me mad. Good teachers in my department would make this claim when it was suggested we supported students as much as we could to get them to understand, and therefore pass the course.

“But when they go to university no one will tell them which bit to read,” or “If I have to correct every part of it…” are arguments that just don’t work. That’s like saying I shouldn’t feed my infant son with anything other than an adult knife and fork as he’ll only have to do it that way in the future. Our job as teachers is to get them over the line that’s set for them and to teach them the right things along the way. Developing independence? Yes, certainly. But don’t use it as an excuse for not giving all the support you can. Build their confidence with all the support necessary, then withdraw the support gradually. Let the university/college/secondary school figure out what to do with them once they get there.

as it neatly summarises the same quandary. When do those stabilisers get taken away? Because, have no doubt, as students take their tentative first steps into the world outside of school by thinking about their post 16 options or experiencing the world of work for the first time or writing an application for an apprenticeship, we are there, supporting their every move and being those stabilisers making sure they don’t (or as few of them as possible) fall. The world that awaits will expect them to arrive with the skills to use the big knife and fork to borrow the analogy above so the balance has to be found. 

Government policy can affect this:

  • The increase in destination data for schools and the anti NEET agenda, the expectation from SLT will be that this support will be there for students and will grow in an attempt to ensure positive outcomes.
  • Good Careers education should prepare students to be better equipped for when that support isn’t there which makes the removal of the Statutory requirement on schools to offer this so perplexing.

With those pressures, some schools may fall into the tempting trap of never taking that support away. 

Striving for this balance, between independence and support, is a skill I find myself learning with each student.


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