Month: December 2013

No good can come of: Online FE applications

Working in a secondary school with no Sixth Form has its benefits for providing independent CEIAG as I would have to be performing whole feats of invention to not be impartial. One of the challenges is that, when they leave at the end of Year 11, they all leave and your preparation and tracking of students to minimise potential NEET risk and ensure suitable progression pathways has to reflect that.

An increasingly common phenomenon that is making  this much more of a task is the move of FE Colleges, Sixth Forms and other providers to only accept online applications through their websites. It must be a very appealing move for them; they are able to both cut the costs of printing hard copies of forms and reassure themselves they are taking steps to appeal to young people by going online.

Set against a backdrop of Raising the Participation Age, Local Authorities struggling to track their 16-18 residents and the pressure on schools to ensure productive destinations for students, this is an unhelpful step for those of us who work in schools.

Hard copies of application forms mean that we can work with students to complete them, we can use the ‘officialness’ of the form to everyone’s benefit when motivating revision weary minds and it means we can track who has applied to what at where and intervene if necessary. I really hope our students don’t apply for 7 A Levels but if I don’t see their application I can’t promise it. I really hope that our students don’t apply for the Level 3 Public Services course without 4 C’s in their predictions but if I don’t see their application I can’t promise it. I really hope they manage to apply in time and by seeing their application I can promise this.

The obvious push back from the FE sector already severely concerned about school IAG will be that none of the above happens anyway so what difference will it make. There isn’t much of a concrete, data based rebuttal I can give to that other than to plead for more time for schools to begin to grasp their new responsibilities with this work. However this transition conundrum is solved, it will require partnership and collaboration from different education providers that relies as little as possible on hard pressed Local Authorities who will be braced for the full storm of austerity to come. Where ever the fault lines run for current any disconnects between schools and FE providers, removing the major part of the transition equation we do have the potential to assist with won’t help.

#AskGove #Careers Education Select Committee 18/12/13

We knew it wouldn’t be pretty but we just didn’t know how ugly it would be. The Education Secretary’s complete lack of interest in Careers work in schools during his time in office always meant that a dedicated session on it as part of the #AskGove Education Select Committee (from around the 10.14am mark) would be like a child discovering Brussel Sprouts for the first time in slow motion but, at times, the plain disgust was even more apparent.

Pressed by the Chair Graham Stuart and ably quizzed by Ian Mearns, the Education Secretary refused to concede that the IAG service on offer to young people had gotten worse under his watch, that Careers Advisers where, in any way, part of the solution to the eternal business + education interface issue and even labelled Careers leaders as lobbyists who place self-interest above working solutions for children and talk “garbage.”

He rebuffed tentative suggestions that initial teacher training should include any careers input, minimised accusations of schools funneling students into Sixth Forms for funding purposes and dismissed any evidence of the dismal state of the current situation as pretty worthless.

He contended that the triumvirate of Destination Measures, Matthew Hancock’s Vision plan and breaking the employer/education boundaries would continue the improvement he believes is materializing in Careers.

At one point he contended that students are already making “better” choices not due to IAG but because of the performance table levers the Dfe had pulled and the Wolf Report recommendations they had acted upon. It should be said that he higher numbers of students taking traditional academic subjects that has resulted from this is a plus point. I have read and find much to agree with in the evidence that shows this is good for social mobility but Mr Gove…young people are individuals even within that more traditional curriculum who appreciate support and guidance. This isn’t a disagreement over the percentage of 14 years olds doing hairdressing.

Gove finished on an impassioned outline of the Department’s vision of improving the quality and quantity of employer interaction with students as the sole answer to better preparing young people for the decisions they must make and the hills they must climb, which to my mind, misses a vital part of the jigsaw.

Young people are interested in the world of work, they want to know more about the sheer variety and scale out there, they want to experience this world, try it out and see what feels right for them. They want to begin to grasp how they might fit into it, understand how what they’re learning now might help them open doors in the future and what those first rungs on the ladder might look like. They want to know how to behave and act in this wholly different world from education, discover and learn from the stories of people who have trodden this path before them and even hear of paths they never knew existed. The Dfe would seemingly like activities that fulfill all of those needs to be organised by schools. Well, perhaps they could even be organised by an approachable face in school, someone the young people know and can rely on as part of the school community. That person could enact the gauntlet of  activities from talks to tasters to work experience to workshops and, from time to time, could even find themselves answering questions from the students about local courses or opportunities, helping them organise inroads into employers they otherwise would not make, reminding them of application deadlines or even provide the occasional motivational nugget to spur them onto those distant goals.

Hey presto, suddenly, you’ve got something you didn’t sound much like you wanted today, a Careers Adviser.

Education Select Committee 18/12/2013: Careers tweets on the #AskGove Twitter hashtag

Ahead of an appearance in front of the Education Select Committee on the 18th December 2013, the Twitter hashtag #AskGove has been launched to source questions from the public for the Minister. Split into four categories

Submit your question via Twitter between 11am on Monday 09 December and 5pm on Thursday 12 December. Please add hashtags as below:

  • #AskGove#places (for questions on school places)

  • #AskGove#care (for questions on children’s social care)

  • #AskGove#careers (for questions on careers)

  • #AskGove (for other questions)

this is a great chance to put forward some direct questions to Michael Gove on the Department’s current Careers policy in schools.

At the time of writing here are some of the best questions in this category:

Make sure you get your questions and tweets in before the deadline using #AskGove and #Careers hashtags.

Schools can & need to fight back against the UTC & Studio Schools employability PR blitz

In his speech to the annual Studio Schools Trust Conference this week, Lord Nash spoke of the need for this new type of school to be more proactive and “dynamic” in both their engagement with established local schools and in their marketing to local parents. His message came against a backdrop of news that the other new career route focused schools, University Technical Colleges, were operating so under capacity that the Dfe was considering halting the funding of new ones.

The Studio Schools rationale is to “pioneer a bold new approach to learning which includes teaching through enterprise projects and real work” because, as the CBI and other spokespeople for the world of industry consistently remind us, the UK education curriculum is perceived to be failing in one of its main functions to prepare work ready employees of tomorrow. Promoted by Lord Baker and The Duke of York respectively, UTCs and Studio Schools are reactions to this criticism and hope to fill a niche by bridging the gap between employment and education alongside the Dfe’s overarching program of school reform supposedly implemented with the skill needs of employers in mind.

In the speech Lord Nash referred to the issues Studio Schools have faced with recruiting students at both 14 and 16 and the steps they can take to improve both numbers and the range of prior ability of learners. This is a tacit admission that, in some Authorities, the Studio School brand has been misunderstood for a kind of new style Pupil Referral Unit type offer. Nash’s suggestions include:

  • a proactive approach towards the schools in their area. Despite what I’ve just said about the potential difficulties in recruiting students from schools at 14, those studio schools that have taken the initiative to build these relationships have done noticeably better

  • a dynamic direct marketing strategy to parents and pupils in the media and online

It is that “dynamic” and “direct” marketing drive that will interest CEIAG professionals as, without doubt, each of the schools will make their use of work experience, employer contacts, engagement and direct career pathways a major cornerstone of their advertising and appeal. As Nash says,

it emerged that the more aspirational the offer, the greater the appeal to prospective parents and pupils, with specialisms like the prestigious STEM subjects going down well. Strong employer engagement was also found to be a strong asset, but only if the overall offer was aspirational enough.

Reinforced by politicians across the political divide

and in eulogizing articles in the national press, the message is clear – These schools prepare young people for the world of work better than ‘regular’ schools.

‘Regular’ schools can and need to fight back against this PR strategy and, by Careers Leaders preaching the necessity of that to their Senior Leadership, this in turn could aid improvement in the consistency of Careers provision across the country. Local newspapers seem willing to give schools a platform to highlight their great Careers work so this is a tactic Careers leads in schools should be utilising to their full advantage to advance their cause. I passionately believe that ‘regular’ schools can incorporate the Studio School strategies mentioned above of employer engagement, IAG, enterprise and experience of the world of work into their structure and provision resulting in a wider and more comprehensive overview of the labour market for students. It’s worth saying that I should be taking my own advice here and local coverage of our own work is something I’ll be looking to gain in coming months and report back with any progress.