While we await the publication of the promised improved guidance for schools to help them meet the Careers statutory duty, I’ve been picking over the noises emanating from those guiding the policy direction to see the direction of travel. In the immediate aftermath of the Ofsted survey, the response documents I mentioned here were clear in their message about increasing the involvement of businesses and employers from a wider range of careers in schools to provide “inspiration” to young people. It is a message that has been reinforced over the past few weeks:
In tweets from Dfe officials praising the Skills Show
In the Implementation Plan for the new delivery method for Apprenticeships (paragraphs 76 & 77)
And in Matthew Hancock’s policy update to FE Leaders
Combine this with the Government’s “freedom rules” stance on requiring QTS this does not bode well for those who wish to see some sort of mandatory requirement for schools to employ or engage with a Level 6 qualified Careers professional as a central tenet needed to satisfy the duty. This seems to be the focal point of disagreement between the policy makers and the Professional Organisations in what should be expected of schools to provide; where the balance lies between guidance offered by suitably qualified practitioners and inspiration for students provided by engagement with the working world. Both sides of the debate hope for the same outcomes for young people but the route of travel to get there seems to be causing disquiet.
It is vital to say here that this must not be an either/or debate. Both of the inputs can add great value to a school careers programme and, more importantly, should be adding great value to a school careers programme. What would be the point of CEIAG provision that either didn’t engage with employers or offer the practitioner chances to improve their practice? I wouldn’t be quite sure. The Government position seems to be though that one should happen in a school without much pressure to implement the other while the Professional Organisations think that one should only happen after the other.
The Professional Organisations face three problems though that make their expectations difficult to implement. First up is the sheer myriad of (perhaps semi) solutions that schools are adopting attempting to meet the Duty. My local experience is that more and more schools now realise the workload is too much for a teacher to take on as an extra responsibility around their teaching timetable and so are creating a specialised support role but there are also the options of buying in IAG services or even buying in whole CEIAG packages from companies such as Pearson’s Think Future. Where in this mixture of structures and responsibilities the requirement to hold or check a Level 6 qualification should lie would be difficult to judge and prescribe. Of course the other issue is money (isn’t it always?). Undertaking a Level 6 qualification costs money and school budgets are tight and getting tighter.
Thirdly, there is also the rationale to justify why the Level 6 in particular would ensure competence in CEIAG practice and why other CPD would not be sufficient enough. Mirroring the QTS debate, certification does not always ensure excellence while other CPD would offer many a chance to improve their practice. Of course, again like the QTS debate, those on the other side of the argument would argue that able practitioners should have no problems or qualms achieving the Level 6 and we should always set minimum standards for competence when public money is involved.
Data and research suggests that both inputs from each side of the debate can have positive outcomes for young people, employer interaction at school age can improve employment outcomes and quality, personalised support also decreases NEET outcomes. I hope that some kind of middle ground is found and the forthcoming revised guidance pleases all parties.