The March 2015 careers guidance update: Scrat gets his nut

In what is now becoming an annual event, last week saw the publication of the update to the Careers Statutory Guidance for schools. It’s now three academic years in a row that has seen updated Guidance released and, each year, the document has become more detailed in its outline and expectations of what quality careers provision should look like in England’s schools.

I’ve always felt that the first iteration of this document did a middling job as guidance goes while last year’s was much clearer and really left no room for school leaders to claim ignorance when offering reasons for their lack of support for CEIAG. In fact, the DfE picked up on my saying so and used it as a defence for sticking to their guidance guns when pressed by the Education Select Committee.

As I’ve acknowledged though, that view seemed to be against the grain as there seemed to be many knowledgeable voices who were deeply unsatisfied with the previous documents and bemoaned the lack of clarity over the must/should usage, the lack of priority given to securing face to face guidance from qualified professionals and the absence of a recommendation for schools to achieve some form of Quality Mark.

This latest publication should then satisfy some of those criticisms as it contains many strengthened references to including qualified face to face guidance and achieving Quality Marks. As a result the initial reaction has been noticeably warmer and welcoming.

That it’s taken a whole term of Government and a change of Secretary of State to release a document in the last week before purdah that professional bodies have at least faintly praised shouldn’t be forgotten but this is a comparatively small point to the larger one to make.

Which is the ongoing background story:

Running a CEIAG program is, like many other parts of school provision, not a cheap enterprise as so minutely documented by the Gatsby report that costed an average program at £44,676 per academic year. You can add another £1800 to that for undertaking a Careers Mark award.

In my posts here I’ve always tried to look beyond my own experience and try to link to wider evidence as often as possible but in making my point here I can’t get away from my own patch. This year there are three items that have cost the school money for a CEIAG program; my wage, a work experience contract with an EBP and a photocopying budget. Trips to Universities and employers happen in my car, trips to Colleges are organised so we meet the students there, a local College paid for our coach to the Skills Show, we’ve had EBP/National Careers funding for a Future First subscription, work experience diaries come from Barclays, lesson resources come from free websites, all our visitors are volunteers, our LEP has financed a careers speed dating event. Anything at all that costs is a non starter. Next year we’re not buying in a Careers Adviser from the Local Authority with the plan that increasing my (Level 6 qualified) face to face offer, a range of activities and visitors and the fact we don’t have a Sixth Form will enable us to meet the “impartiality” standard in the guidance. And, I would consider us a school that doesn’t have it really bad. I’ve had access to training and huge amounts of support from Senior Leaders. We are fortunate enough to currently have a fantastic new building being erected under the Priority School Building Program and, over time, are due to increase our intake numbers to 1400. Meanwhile, many schools are looking at their teaching and support staff and looking for ways to lower costs. And, this is before an election after which, no matter the rhetoric, significant further cuts will arrive (the larger academy chains know this and, to protect themselves as best they can against the coming drought, are looking to lever their brand to access private donors). This will not be in any way good for CEIAG.

In such a climate, even contemplating a Quality Award is a silly notion. It’s the furthest thing from my agenda for the next academic year. The final sentence of the CDI response to the new guidance pays the smallest heed to this mess in what is surely a case of putting the cart before the horse

Access to development funding to help schools build their capacity to take on the statutory duty would really help to ensure that all young people had access to the high quality careers support they both need and deserve.

As Deirdre Hughes writes,

Let’s hope the Government’s ring-fenced investment for careers work to reach more young people becomes a reality sooner rather than later.

Otherwise, we’ll soon find ourselves in a situation akin to that little critter in the Ice Age movies; while great time, effort and perseverance has been spent on the small prize of the nut of persuading officials to change some wording in a Guidance document, around us the glacier has been cracking.

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