Month: October 2014

The CEIAG bits of our recent Ofsted inspection

There are two events which are by far and away the most stressful and tension filled times working in schools. One happens every year as those all important GCSE results come in but then the spreadsheets and data packs are soon forgotten as the young people start to arrive and collect their grades. The other happens (as just has in our case) around once every four years and is preempted by a midday phone call, an evening of photocopying and then two days of direct, thoughtful and rigorous meetings and questions. That’s an Ofsted visit.


I thought I’d do a post covering my experience of the Inspection to help careers colleagues who are at schools also expecting “the call” this academic year.

During the two days, I had two meetings with an Inspector, both with another member of staff present. In one, myself and our Assistant Head for Curriculum were tasked to cover our curriculum offer and progression. In another, myself and my colleague Jo (who alongside a mentoring cohort, also does a lot of careers and apprenticeship work) were tasked to cover our vocational (including offsite) provision and related progression.

Discussion in the Curriculum session covered:

  • CEIAG policy
  • Annual action plan
  • Past audits of provision
  • A broad and balanced curriculum model and how it ties into local progression routes (both College & employment)
  • Take up of different options and the options guidance process
  • The range of activities & visits offered to students
  • Pupil feedback from their meetings with inspectors
  • NEET and progression percentages into different routes
  • Our Learning for Life (PHSCE) lessons with careers lessons included
  • How these provision feed into the “British Values” agenda

Discussion in the Vocational provision session covered:

  • Range of offsite & on site vocational provision
  • Service Level agreements between institutions
  • Parental agreements (with above focusing on safeguarding procedures)
  • Tasters
  • The reporting schedule for parents
  • Day to-day attendance and progression monitoring
  • Specific progression case studies for these learners

In both of those sessions we had all of our relevant documentation with us and were able to present it to the Inspector as we told our story.

This lead to a paragraph in the final report that states:

Students in Years 8 to 11 receive good independent advice and guidance regarding their future careers.
Older students benefit from support to help them to make informed decisions about examination subject
choices, as well as the opportunities available to them in further and higher education, employment and

as well as a number of mentions of our vocational offer.

It’s probably worth relating this to the recent work of Careers England looking at (the lack of) CEIAG in Ofsted reports from last academic year. When a meeting on Curriculum was requested, my Headteacher suggested who should attend, when a meeting on the school’s Vocational provision was requested, my Headteacher suggested who should attend. During those meetings the Inspector asked pertinent and searching questions as we went through our setup and provision but it was down to us to initiate the direction of the conversation. In the Curriculum meeting I piped up at various points to expand on points our Deputy Head was making to show how our careers work supports progression into local routes and the local labour market. Basically, I made sure that the Inspector couldn’t walk out of the room without a clear idea of what we do. Both sessions did have a different dynamic though to the sessions we had when visited by Ofsted as part of their survey into Careers provision back in early 2013. Then the Inspector clearly had a much more defined and tailored brief of what to look for and his approach and questions reflected this. The lesson may be that it is those schools that are willing to be vocal and upfront about their CEIAG work are the ones who achieve a mention in their final reports. Those who keep quiet are the ones where the questions that should be being asked, may not be.

Local news coverage of our Careers Fair

The Luton News have kindly run a small piece about our careers event last week


Link here:


Stopsley Baptist Church was packed throughout the day on Thursday with Year 11 students from Ashcroft, Putteridge and Stopsley High Schools keen to find out more about their futures.

Over 30 exhibitors including many local employers such as Vauxhall, Selex ES, Pictons Solicitors, Hayward Tyler, Monarch Engineering, Double S Travel and GKN Aerospace where on hand to inform over 550 young people about the careers they offer. Representatives from a wide range of Higher and Further Education providers such as Luton Sixth Form College, Barnfield College, North Hertfordshire College, Oaklands College, the University of Bedfordshire and Oxford University were also present to offer guidance about their routes.

The Careers teams at all 3 High Schools expressed their thanks to all of the providers who attended and made the day such a success. This was the fourth year the event has run and already planning is underway to make next year’s event even bigger and better.


What’s the point of Careers quality marks for schools?


There is much the Careers community would like to see happen to improve CEIAG provision in schools, the use of Level 6 trained, CDI registered guidance professionals, dedicated funding, a published careers plan for each school and the widespread use of Careers Quality Awards as a road-map towards and validation of improved provision have all been mooted. Not many of these seem to have much chance of ever becoming DfE policy but all (in the eyes of the professional Careers bodies) would achieve in some way what we’re all looking to achieve; they would aid improvement. Or…would they?

In this post, I want to cover some of the issues and unanswered questions I have with Careers Quality marks both as a method of improvement and validation of a high standard of provision. Currently, according to Careers England, there are 12 Quality Awards that have met the Quality in Careers Standard which is the quality award for careers quality awards. The careers rubber stamp king of careers rubber stamps if you will. Some of these 12 awards have their own websites:

but all follow roughly the same procedure – School pays membership fee and gains access to the Standards document > School prepares evidence to meet standards > School sends in evidence for assessment > School pays further fee for assessment day costs > Assessment day > Award of standard > Perhaps two or four years later, re-validation

The reasons usually given in praise of careers quality marks plus my issues with them are:

1. They provide a roadmap for schools to guide them on their journey of CEIAG improvement

The standards documents I have seen from some of the different awards do seem to be very thorough and the evidence base that would be needed to comply with them would be significant but they are documents held behind a paywall, in the case of CareersMark a £90 fee for an annual membership. What value is held in those documents which isn’t found in the DfE guidance documents for CEIAG in schools? The NFER audit and guidance documents? The CDI toolkit? Janet Colledge’s website? These and other resources freely available just a Google search away perform exactly the same function. To justify a pay wall those standards must truly hold some individual value which leads me to point 2.

2. They are validation of not just good practice but practice that works

With the introduction of Destination Measures into league table data and Ofsted inspections schools already inhabit a world where the value of their wider careers work can be judged by outcomes. It’s not perfect but it’s a start and with the planned (postponed but definitely coming at some point) inclusion of more detailed Destination Measures into the forthcoming 2016 accountability changes, the focus on the actual employment and learning outcomes schools achieve for their young people is only going to increase.

With this in mind, a school, paying up to £2000 for a Careers Mark inspection, should be asking, “Is what they’re looking at, not only good practice but practice that has an impact?” Do the activities and CEIAG provision which would meet the Award’s Standards actually have a discernible impact on outcomes? The research work of the Education & Employers Taskforce has raised the bar in this area and is symptomatic of a growing trend in education now that the budget squeeze is really being felt. Policy makers and school leaders want to know what works, they want clear direction on what outcomes will be achieved for what investment. Proof of this can seen in the rise of the ResearchED movement, the spreading work of the Education Endowment Foundation and the rapid uptake and dissemination of the Sutton Trust pupil premium toolkit over the last few years. When school leaders were given a dedicated funding stream for pupils on free school meals, they wanted clear guidance on how to get the most bang for their buck. CEIAG expenditure in schools will be no different so the data needs to show

a) For schools that hold your Quality Award, how much lower is their NEET average over the last 3 years of leavers compared to the national average?

b) For schools that hold your Quality Award, how much lower is their Education Destination not Sustained (using the formula on the DfE Performance tables) percentage over the last 3 years worth of leavers than the national average?

c) Using the data sets utilised by the Education & Employers Task force, how much higher is the average wage of leavers from these schools than the national average 5 or 10 years after they left Year 11?(granted, there may be lag issues with this one)

d) For schools that hold your quality award how higher is the percentage of students securing an Apprenticeship within 12 months of leaving Year 11 than the national average?

Crunch the data for those questions and Careers Quality Awards have a chance of justifying their initial short-term costs to school leaders.

3. They add value to your school with current and future stakeholders

Schools like certificates to hang in their receptions and logos to put on their letterheads. Artsmarks, Investors in People awards, Challenge Awards, Sports Marks and all sorts of other validation proudly adorn Headteacher office walls up and down the country. School leaders feel their institution benefits from holding such awards, that they carry some weight with the public, parents and potential staff and help raise their reputation and standing. Ask any potential parent or member of staff though about what really influences their view on a school (other than results or perhaps the local grapevine) and your answer is likely to be “Ofsted.” Their verdict is near paramount and, as Ofsted are now specifically tasked to monitor CEIAG provision, more schools will* have an official verdict on the quality of their provision to highlight to stakeholders if they so wish

(*at this point some readers may raise their hand and point out the recent Careers England work which showed a majority of inspections last academic year did not include a reference or verdict on CEIAG provision. The solution to this simply cannot be to ask schools to find funds from existing budgets to pay other organisations to do this work but to actually ensure that the inspectorate with the £168m annual budget of public money is doing what it has been tasked to do)

The value that the wider public associate with a verdict from the Ofsted brand (despite the current whirlwind of criticism it is facing from the educational world) simply can’t be matched by a careers quality award.

It is these doubts over the perceived benefit versus the £ cost, the worth of what is actually being validated versus the data already publicly available and what extra opportunities it would bring to my school that have, so far, held me back from journeying along the careers quality mark route.