Month: September 2013

Some quibbles with the Ofsted Careers Report

For the sake of balance, I thought I’d point out just a couple of issues I have with the Ofsted Careers Report “Going in the right direction?”

It’s worth saying upfront that these points do not detract from the main message of the document and its serious findings on the lack of success many schools have had adapting to the new CEIAG duty. But, as a school that was visited as part of the survey, perhaps at least I can understand the process each of those schools would have undertaken to present their case.

It’s also worth noting that I don’t think either of the two examples quoted are actual examples from my own school although both will have definitely happened under my watch. (On that point it is difficult to be sure which examples in the final report are from my school, I have some hunches but the final document is the blended feedback from 60 visits so it’s only natural that some specificity is lost).

1. There’s nothing wrong with “first come, first served”

one school filled the 50 places for a visit to an external careers fair on a ‘first come, first served’ basis instead of using a clear selection process that prioritised the students who were likely to benefit the most.

Whatever careers related activities or trips I run, one of the most difficult decisions of the process is “Who goes?” Sometimes it’s obvious to target students you know have an interest in the nature of the visit, sometimes a Head of Year will request certain pupils attend and sometimes you spread the word, do your pitch in assembly and get students to sign up on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. And, in some cases, that’s perfectly admissible because the message it spreads through the peer group is participate. A modern school is a hive of clubs, extra curricular experiences and positions of responsible for students to be involved with. Providing the environment to encourage the self motivation in young people to sign up for these is surely part of the necessary learning associated with good careers work and enacting useful future career skills. The value of the trip mentioned in the Ofsted report didn’t just start when coach pulled into to the careers fair.

2. No preferred style of delivery?

a Year 10 assembly to launch work experience was too didactic and provided no opportunities for the students to participate

Every Careers leader, whether a qualified teacher or member of support staff, wants their career lessons or sessions to be successful and for the students to make progress in their understanding just like any other lesson. Recently, Sir Michael Wilshaw has been at pains to point out that Ofsted has no preferred style or method of teaching as chronicled by the teacher blogger Andrew Old, so that comment seems out of sync with these announcements. An assembly to launch work experience would be, by its very nature, a session jam packed of content the children need to make note of and remember such as deadlines to meet, websites to visit and paperwork procedures to follow. As a session it would be very different beast to a Year 8 lesson looking at what sort of skills employers value which would need to involve lots of discussion, paired work and short, sharp inputs from a capable teacher to keep students on task and moving forward. The ultimate answer to this point is that there should be a range of careers experiences that naturally cover a range of delivery methods so singling one out for criticism seems odd.

After the Ofsted Careers Report: The new guidance will say…

Most schools attempts at fulfilling the Careers Duty captured on camera

So, the Ofsted Careers report is finally out and it’s pretty damming in its conclusions on the Careers Education Information Advice & Guidance that schools are currently managing to offer their students under the new Duty.

Clearly prepared for the verdict, within hours Matthew Hancock and the Department for Business team published a number of Action Plan documents and promised stronger guidance for schools in the forthcoming weeks. So, in true kneejerk internet blogging style, I’m going to totally jump the gun and predict what this reinforced guidance will mean for schools in reality. Except I’m not really, because the Government response to Recommendation 1 in that Action Plan tells us what it will include.

Greater pressure on schools to engage employers and build links

We will highlight the need for schools to build strong connections with employers, ensuring students can benefit from sustained contact with inspiring people from the world of work

Which is fine as any Careers program should be linked with the labour market and the needs of business but this needs to be somehow overseen by local Chambers of Commerce and Local Enterprise Partnerships. My fear is that this will, for want of a better phrase, evolve into a bit of a bunfight as schools deluge local businesses with requests for exclusive links to provide work experience, visits or mentoring for only their own students. The wave of Studio Schools and University Technical Colleges that are opening up across the country are at a major advantage here as their employer links are forged in their DNA. Those schools who are part of large academy chains may also find themselves ahead of the game as their sponsors hold the clout to arrange partnerships with national employers. There is significant work here for schools and organisations such as Inspiring the Future, FutureFirst and MyKindaCrowd should see interest rise. This is an easy check by Ofsted through conversations with focus groups of pupils on an inspection.

Schools will find it harder to resist offers of collaboration from UTC’s, Studio Schools, Sixth Forms, FE Colleges and Training Providers

We will…be much clearer in the guidance about what schools should do to ensure that students have information about all the types of education and training they could pursue, and hear directly from different types of providers”

and by “collaboration” I mean “getting their foot in the door.” Will the phrase “hear directly” mean the days of hiding prospectuses for competing institutions under the desk are over and open the doors to assemblies and tasters from these providers?

Schools will be told that only a range of provision is sufficient

we will be explicit that signposting students to a careers website is not sufficient to meet the careers duty

There is a difference though between saying what isn’t enough and saying what is enough and I think those advocates of face to face guidance with a highly qualified adviser being a core principle may again find themselves disappointed that is only included as a possible intervention.

The detail of Destination data for each school will be increased and will form the opinions of Ofsted before they walk through the door for an inspection

We will highlight the inclusion of destinations for 16 year olds in school performance tables, informing Ofsted consideration of the quality of careers guidance provided in a school.

Any figures dramatically divergent from the national or local mean will need to be explained and the percentage of students not going into a sustained destination will be scrutinised. Reflecting the conversations that follow the analysis of test data that informs Ofsted’s preconceptions about a school, wise Careers advisers will have an evidence heavy narrative ready to explain to inspectors why their school data is like it is.

“Going in the right direction?” Ofsted Careers survey & Bis response documents

A quick round up of all of the documents released today:

The actual Ofsted survey report “Going in the right direction?”

The accompanying press release:

In response the Government/Bis immediately published this press release:

And this, more detailed, Careers Guidance Action Plan:

And, later in the day, this Inspiration Vision Statement. No, I’ve no idea what one of those is either:

Statements from Professionals and Organisations:

Association of Colleges, both damming and constructive:

Association of School & College Leaders, lead by Brian Lightman who has always been a great advocate for CEIAG

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development takes the opportunity to flag up it’s Learning to Work Programme:

The blogger Patrick Montrose provides a summary:

David Hughes of NIACE takes a thoughtful and holistic approach:

Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE links the report to recent and future work of the National Careers Council:

A short response from the CBI who have long championed the strengthening of the relationship between education and employers :

The 157 Group of Colleges are severe in their verdict:

The Association of Employment and Training Providers release a statement highlighting how they can aid schools:

The National Foundation for Educational Research echos calls for a culture change with a press release and a paper:

The Career Development Institute take the opportunity to repeat their call for the any new guidance to require Level 6 qualified advisers:

Media reaction

From FE Week:

The BBC take:

The Guardian reports:

Stephen Twigg has his say in the TES (includes the phrase “jobs of tomorrow” for the full careers bingo):

This Guardian article by Jan Murray was published on the 26th August but is an excellent and prescient piece:

I will update this page as more are published.

Much to think about and contemplate over the forthcoming months regarding Careers work in schools.