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)
- 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.