Careers guidance in schools is tied to a (sometimes) unmovable anchor; the framework of routes, options and qualifications that each school either offers or requires it’s students to study. To further complicate this mix of multiple Key Stage 4 pathways and compulsory BTECs are the early and multiple entry for core subjects that an increasingly large number of schools are asking their pupils to take and retake in a long treadmill towards that 5A*-C milestone and the glory of those top school league table positions.
The statistics and comment on the recent GCSE results have opened the debate both of the value of these practices and the impact on the education of the learners involved. My question is, how does the Careers education and guidance community feel this impacts the career readiness of young people?
On the one hand you have the CBI no less (an organisation that must surely guide the thinking of those of us in schools endeavoring to close the gap to the business community) being extremely disparaging in their criticism of multiple entry and continuous exam preparation.
“The sheer scale of multiple and early entries is astonishing. Employers don’t want exam robots – they want young people who are academically stretched, rounded and grounded.
“Turning schools into exam factories and cramming two years’ syllabus into one benefits no one. A GCSE should be an assurance of ability, not a consolation prize for surviving months of continual testing and retesting.”
The alternative of terminal, all or bust, one chance exams is the clear preferred scenario of the current Dfe administration and one they are moving towards with each of their reforms. The belief is that this will enable teachers to open new depths of study for pupils as they are not continually jumping through the next hoop on the path of exam preparation drudgery. Yet, this structure is one unrecognisable to anyone learning their way through a working life or educating young people about those working lives. Professor Patrick McGhee concisely covered this in a few tweets on results day:
Of course, the wiser, more considered minds will stress the need for balance between these two positions. A qualification framework that offers variety of assessment methods but tied to a public accountability measure unplayable by school leaders which, by extension, grows the best of employability and entrepreneurial skills in each learner. Unfortunately it seems that the extremes of the current debate, the stresses on the exam system, the pressure of league tables and the sheer will of schools to find whatever chink in the armour of regulation they can mean that any compromise is deemed a “muddle” and a decisive shift towards one position or another is the solution. Will an outcome of this story be the erosion of the career preparedness of young people?