Month: October 2013

Year 11 Careers Fair

Last week we held our third annual Year 11 Careers Fair. It is an all day event we organise jointly with two other local High Schools as we’ve found that this approach spreads the administrative burden in the build up but also tempts more exhibitors into coming as more students will attend. Promising to put around 500 fresh faces in front of them is much more of a draw than just one year group.

Holding it in October seems to make sense as it ‘kick starts’ the reality of moving on for the Year group and, the closer through the academic year you get to exam season, the less likely you are to be allowed to take the students off timetable for an hour anyhow.

To discourage the frantic “freebie collection dash” that Careers Fairs can sometimes turn into we prepare a questionnaire/evaluation for students to complete. This includes questions that they have to ask certain providers and space to reflect on any new information they discovered and how it affected their plans. For an after half term assembly we have some high street vouchers to give as prizes for the forms that have been filled in with the most considered answers, those which show the young person has really thought about what they heard on the day. We also ask the exhibitors to complete an evaluation and try our best to act on their comments (this year we moved the location in part because of last years comments), which are extremely helpful as we want to make it as easy as possible for all types of organisations to attend.

Getting the right mix of Colleges, Sixth Forms, Universities, training providers, local and national employers to attend is the probably the highest hurdle to overcome. Some fantastic local employers such as Vauxhall, GKN Aerospace, Selex Galileo and Wates Construction attended alongside general employer bodies such as NAS, The Institute of Public Relations and Hit Training but we will always want more. Education providers are always keen to be there to market themselves and we thank and value their input as well.

If you run similar events, I’d love to hear how you go about organising them and what steps you take to make sure the students wring out the greatest possible worth from them. Please get in touch via twitter or in the comments below.

2016 Accountability measures: the next battle for CEIAG in schools

EDIT – March 2014

Following today’s release of the 16-19 Accountability & Assessment plans, I though I would add an update to this post. The plans make it clear that Destination Measures will be one of the Accountability measures used in the 16-19 performance tables. Concerns about the robustness of the data are mentioned again (page 10) but the document contains a clear commitment to improve the validity of these statistics and incorporate them into the range of measures used by the DfE, Ofsted and (it is hoped) students and parents to assess the quality of provision. With such a commitment to secure it seems, to my mind, only a matter of time before Destination Measures will be incorporated into the secondary performance suite.


The Dfe recently published (October 2013) their long-awaited response to a consultation on changes to school accountability measures due to apply from the 2016 results season.

There has been a deep and general consensus across education that the current headline figure of a pass percentage for 5A*-C at GCSE (or equivalents) is a blunt tool of measurement that encouraged schools to streamline their curriculum or overweigh it with equivalent qualifications, focus on the attainment of a narrow band of students at the C/D borderline and could be ‘gamed’ to such an extent that it did not accurately reflect a school’s performance.

The reaction to the new proposals to include a Progress across 8 subjects measure, an Achievement across 8 subjects measure, the percentage passing English and Maths and the percentage passing the Ebacc suite of subjects has been extremely positive, even from those at the coal face of school leadership.

There is a paragraph in the document though that should give CEIAG leads in school a moment’s pause.

Page 7:

“We would also like to include a destination measure as a fifth headline indicator. This will show the percentage of pupils who went on to sustained education, employment or training during the year after they finished their Key stage 4 qualifications. We currently publish experimental statistics to show this information. We want to be sure the statistics are robust before committing to using this destination measure as a headline indicator.”

Only a few days later news broke that many Councils are failing in their duty to track 16-18 participation status, making it clear why the Dfe fears the current experimental statistics are not “robust” enough to be included as part of the headline suite of data about a school.

The tortured tale of CEIAG in schools over recent months has finally reached a juncture in the story where Ofsted are offering judgement on a school’s attempts to meet their Statutory Duty as part of their regular inspections. The consistency and worth of these judgments will be determined in time but it is, at least, happening. Many in the CEIAG field are awaiting the publication of the further guidance promised after the critical Ofsted survey yet, perhaps it may be the inclusion (or not) of destination data in these new accountability measures that will have a greater impact on school leaders consideration of CEIAG in their planning.  Guidance is, after all, only guidance and, if one thing is clear from this administration’s approach to education policy, it’s that the mantra of freedom rules.

The consultation reply also states that, as well as being published on the dedicated league table website (hopefully in greater detail), these headline destination figures will be placed

On each school’s website, we will make sure there is a ‘snapshot’ of their performance in a standard format, so parents can quickly understand a school’s effectiveness.

The power this simple website addition will hold over Headteachers should not be under estimated: 5 clear figures, displayed on the front page of their school website, easily compared with other schools. Destination data has to be a one of those 5 figures for the progress we have seen to continue and for CEIAG to retain its growing importance in school leader’s minds. This rests on the actual data being collated and being “robust” enough to convince the Dfe of its worth. This is an area that those who attempt to influence CEIAG policy should be taking a keen interest in.

Why Andrew Selous’ Private Member’s Bill isn’t the Careers data we’re looking for

South West Bedfordshire MP Andrew Selous

Last week the column of the Conservative MP Andrew Selous in my local newspaper reminded me of his work on a Private Members Bill that would see the publication of a great amount of data with the intention of highlighting the earnings potential from each subject and qualification that young people take at school and college. In the Herald & Post Thursday 3rd October 2013, he wrote:

“A few months ago, I got the chance to bring a Private Member’s Bill before Parliament and it was an education issue that I chose to raise. My Education (Information Sharing) Bill will publish for the first time information on which vocational qualifications, GCSEs and A Levels lead to the highest and lowest earning returns. It will mean that young people and their parents will get reliable information on which courses and qualifications are likely to lead to a job and higher earnings. The Bill will allow schools and universities to link earning and employment information with the subjects and qualifications schoolchildren and university students have studied. Schools, colleges and universities need the information the Bill will provide to assess their own effectiveness in creating routes to employment and good earnings. Critically they will really help young people and their parents to take much more informed decisions. I think this is a poverty reducing measure.”

As someone who assists young people (and their parents) tip toe their way through a confusing array of qualifications and routes without clear pathways towards the road of employment, I should surely be at the front of the queue to welcome this Bill, but I won’t be because I very much doubt it will have the impact Mr Selous desires for these reasons:

1. Over recent years, some secondary school curriculum’s haven’t really been designed that way 

The pressure of accountability measures has greatly impacted school curriculum’s in recent years. Perhaps, to his credit, Mr Selous hopes that his Bill will help to highlight instances where schools are making curriculum decisions with themselves in mind and not the student but it will be starting from a point of irrelevance for two reasons. Firstly, the Dfe is soon to announce changes to the accountability structure with the hope to ensure broad and balanced school offers. Steps have already been taken and the list of approved qualifications that will count in these measures has already been published.  The second reason is that, because the Bill relies on historical data, it will overhang with the consequences of recent years. For example, the employment value of BTEC’s in IT, Business or Sport will be greatly overstated in the data because so many students will have been made to do them. The total number of entries will increase the correlation to the average of the salary data which is to be presented to show the positive or negative salary outcomes of taking those courses.

2. Unistats already does it for degrees

The degree is still, for many, the final stage of education before employment so, combined with the implications of annual fees, the employment destination and salary data may be important factors in choosing a suitable University or degree. Replicating this data on the Dfe website or elsewhere seems nonsensical.

3. Large sections of the job market just don’t work that way 

The importance of networks and building useful contacts to secure jobs before they even reach the stage where decisions are taken on “which candidate is the best qualified?” will be seemingly sidelined by this data.  It would also ignore the complications of nepotism, favoritism, racism and sexism or all of the other hiring factors which influence employment and career outcomes.

4. Studies show that other inputs have an effect 

The gaining of formal qualifications is not the only benefit an individual takes forward from their education. Research by the Education & Employers task-force shows just how significant an impact employer interaction at school age can have on future earning power. This impact will be completely discounted from the data as proposed.

5. Inequality in pay will distort the results

The current earnings landscape of the UK is a mixed picture of below inflation pay rises for the majority and comparatively large increases for a minority of higher earners. Combined with the static picture of social mobility in the UK this will taint the data as qualifications traditionally taken by private school students will certainly rate highly in a comparative pay measure. Will this reflect those qualifications intrinsic worth to employers? Or other factors?

6. Targeted data = informed choices. Too much data = confusion and ambivalence

Mr Selous’ Bill dovetails with the political viewpoint of his party colleague Micheal Gove that, through publication of data, parental choice will force a rise in standards from providers. Even within the ideology of that framework must come a point when the surety needed to choose is lost among the wave of statistics. The average school page  (that link is to the school featured in Educating Yorkshire) on the league table website is already a wealth of information for parents to consider (alongside Ofsted reports and Parental View) results and it is unclear where this new data would sit and if it would have the prominence to influence a parents choice of school for their child.

7. Who decides the capture point?

The Unistats data mentioned earlier is based on average earnings 6 months after leaving the course. I will leave the suitability of that timescale to others but it is clear that something similar would not work for Key Stage 4 qualifications so when would it be? 1 year after the new mandatory education or training leaving age of 18? 4 years? 10? The capture point will greatly affect the salary outcomes as individuals move through their further education or career choices.

8. Historical data won’t fit into a modern job market

Which follows on from the last point. The published data would be advising people currently making decisions based on data from in people in current employment who made those decisions X number of years ago. Without straying into the hyperbole and cliché of “future jobs” it worth noting that this proposal fails to acknowledge that the requirement in skills of the job market would change in the lag mentioned above.

Of course this is not to say that education should be oblivious to the realities of employment when planning curriculum. The expectation from Government is that the FE sector should be collaborating closely with LEPS and local employers to offer provision with the aim of fulfilling the local skill needs. Through the Statutory Careers Duty, the expectation also cascades down to secondary education and there are specific inputs for employer interaction in Pre 16 provision but ultimately the data from Bill seems to be a too simplistic measure of what is a complex reality. While the ideal of providing clearer guidance is one I welcome, I’m unconvinced this Bill and the subsequent publication of the data will have either have much effect on choices or help illuminate the highly individual path through education and into the world of work we all take.

Early Signs: Is Ofsted delivering the CEIAG judgement goods?

A new term means new Ofsted inspections and reports which, this year, should get special scrutiny from the CEIAG community. For it is from this September that Sir Micheal Wilshaw has promised that a school’s proficiency in fulfilling the duties of the Statutory Guidance and the quality of their CEIAG work will be given a greater priority in inspections. The guidelines issued to inspectors are clear so now, for schools to  believe that this work is a vital part of the structure they build for their students, it just has to happen.

In these first reports from this academic year only full school inspections on secondary schools are included here:

1. School: Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School

Inspection Date: 11/09/2013

Performance table:

Specific mention of Careers/CEIAG/Destinations: None (although the paragraph at the bottom of page 6 does mention progression routes)

2. School: Sharples School Science Specialist College

Inspection Date: 10/09/2013

Performance table:

Specific mention of Careers/CEIAG/Destinations: On page 6, “students receive good support and guidance about the next steps open to them after they leave school.”

3. School: Granville Sports College

Inspection Date: 12/09/2013

Performance table:

Specific mention of Careers/CEIAG/Destinations: On page 6, “They have also developed a range of courses which are increasingly relevant for students. Most students are now prepared well for the next stage of education or work,” which is really more about curriculum pathways and design rather than IAG.

4. School: South Wolverhampton and Bilston Academy

Inspection Date: 18/09/2013

Performance table:

Specific mention of Careers/CEIAG/Destinations: None

5. School: Sandhurst School

Inspection Date: 10/09/2013

Performance table:

Specific mention of Careers/CEIAG/Destinations: None

6. School: Acland Burghley School

Inspection Date: 11/09/2013

Performance table:

Specific mention of Careers/CEIAG/Destinations: None

7. School: Fearnhill School

Inspection Date: 17/09/2013

Performance table:

Specific mention of Careers/CEIAG/Destinations: YES! – On page 8, “The school makes suitable arrangements for providing independent information, advice and guidance to prepare students for the next stage of their education and the world of work.”

8. School: Hasland Hall Community School

Inspection Date: 12/09/2013

Performance table:

Specific mention of Careers/CEIAG/Destinations: YES! – On page 7, “Independent and impartial careers guidance is available to students through an independent careers service and events and opportunities provided by the school. There are good relationships with local providers of post-16 education.”

9. School: Litcham School

Inspection Date: 12/09/2013

Performance table:

Specific mention of Careers/CEIAG/Destinations: None – although reference is made to qualification pathways and opportunities for small numbers of students to participate in work related learning but, again, this is a curriculum design issue, not an IAG reference.

It’s far too early to form a judgement or look for any emerging patterns here on either how Ofsted are inspecting or then reporting CEIAG as part of regular school inspections but I wanted to flag up that, in some cases, it seems to be happening well.

The early questions raised are though

1. Will negative verdicts on a schools CEIAG provision start to appear as well?

2. Does omission of a CEIAG verdict in the report imply the inspection team did not focus on it or a negative verdict on the school’s provision?

3. Will Destination figures get a mention at some point?

In time, we shall see.