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.

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