I’ll take Option 3 please David: The Future of Careers Work in Schools

It’s a generic sign post image!

This week, I was fortunate to attend a NICEC seminar on the Future of Careers work in schools and listen to some very thoughtful and knowledgeable contributions on the recent history and immediate future of CEIAG in schools.

The discussion about future changes was structured around David Andrews’ discussion paper, “The future of Careers work in schools in England: what are the options?”

http://www.thecdi.net/write/The_future_of_careers_work_in_schools_in_England__March_2013.pdf

It’s rare that a policy facing document a) actually knows how recent changes in guidance are playing out on the ground and b) is able to offer realistic suggestions for future evolution so it’s very much worth a read. And, as you might have spotted from the title above, one of the suggested paths forward makes most sense to me.

Option 3 – School-based career development advisers – “all schools would be required to employ their own careers advisers who would be responsible for providing face to face careers guidance to pupils and could work with teaching staff to plan and deliver programs of careers education.”

Reasons why I think this is a good structure:

“Top down” guidance that has the best chance of impact and success is policy that embraces and enables drivers of change that can happen from the bottom up and I think there are a couple of these drivers already in place in schools now to enable a structure for Careers work to flourish.

  1. Headteachers have never had more freedom to shape their school to how they see fit. They have the flexibility to change their provision on offer to the local community from the curriculum, to their staffing structures to the length of the school day. These freedoms spark a desire to find what works for their community, students and parents and put it in place. The Careers community needs to shout that good Careers work should be part of that offer. Stephen Twigg has said that he wishes to spread some Academy freedoms to all schools so this driver of change is here to stay.
  2. Heads have also never been so aware of the need for their school to have a good reputation, both nationally and in the community, and are using marketing and PR to take control of the message to form that reputation. The current legislators believe in choice as a driver for improvement in the school system and the natural offshoot of competition is reputation management and the need to promote positive stories associated with a school. Good Careers work in practice (employer visits, tasters to FE & HE, Enterprise activity days etc ) produces these positive messages and the data from sustained good Careers work produces positive outcomes. Again, we need to make this case to leaders in schools.
  3. Following on from that point, the publication of destination data on the performance table website is another lever to pull. To what extent schools will incorporate these statistics into their PR messages (or to what extent parents will pay attention to it) remains to be seen as the headline 5 A*-C % is still the all-powerful measure but it’s data that’s out there and can be utilised.

Other reasons it would work:

  1. It makes sense from the young people’s point of view – I’ve already posted about the benefits of having a dedicated Careers person as part of the school community that is known to the students and accessible to them here: https://fecareersiag.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/the-nfer-discussion-panel-on-pre-neets-misses-a-trick/  I haven’t seen the publication of the research talked about there; if it’s come out and I’ve missed it, please let me know!
  2. A Careers practitioner as part of the school staff also has a much better chance of folding careers work into subject curriculum’s through building relationships with subject leaders and fostering a reputation for offering quality stuff
  3. The cat is already out of the bag – any rigid, top down approach would struggle to accommodate the variety of solutions to the statutory duty already in place as some schools have already reacted to it. The Ofsted survey should help clarify the extent and diversity of these solutions but any national structure such as mooted in Option 2 would have to adapt so much to place its-self in local contexts that it would end up not being a national structure.

What it would take to ensure this would actually be a good structure:

  1. Monitoring & Ofsted – as David says, “the risk to impartiality is a big issue” with this option. Ofsted is going to be looking at Careers as part of inspections from September 2013 but how rigorous in regards to impartiality this will be remains to be seen. Ofsted and Local Authorities would have a key role to play here that cannot be underplayed.
  2. Training & forums for best practice sharing – National bodies such as the CDI and the NCS could take the lead here in offering inexpensive and comprehensive training for the school based Careers practitioner and maintaining the register of suitably qualified practitioners.
  3. LMI & links to employers – again the CDI and NCS, as well as local networks, could enable bridges across that divide building on the desire of schools to market themselves to the community and to prove the competency of their Careers programs to Ofsted

I’m acutely aware that I’m a Careers practitioner in school arguing the case for Careers practitioners in schools but I hope I’ve stepped outside of the bubble of self-interest in this post and presented a realistic scenario. Having experienced the recent lack of interest and investment in Careers work in schools from the Dfe (“this is isn’t delegation, it’s abdication!” copyright Tony Watts) it also seems to me that the evolution of the service I’ve outlined also has the best chance, with continued advocacy, of actually evolving in reality.

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2 comments

  1. I’m with you. I want control, now I have had it for a while. I know what our students need, and I want to embed the careers programme into the whole curriculum to ensure a)everyone gets it and b) students can make a better link between learning and the world of work.
    I also want to be free to employ the services of a guidance professional to help the most needy. MY choice.

    None of that will happen in schools who parachute an advisor in a few days a week on a contract, or get ‘given’ one via national service.
    ‘The interview office is over there – here’s a list of the kids…….be lucky’
    Ask ex-Connexions advisors how familar that conversation is.

    1. Exactly, the genie’s out of the bottle, and those schools which have responded to the Duty with good provision will want to continue the work as they see the benefit for their students and, like you say, shape their offer accordingly. The “regrettable” parts of moving the Duty to schools is that they did it with no mention of monitoring from Ofsted and no funding allocated, it’s not “regrettable” that schools want to be centrally involved in this work

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