Month: May 2015

A bit about the challenge ahead of us

Yes, just what the world needs, another “what the next 5 years of Conservative government means” blog. So, I’ll be brief.

There was a lot in the Tory manifesto about education and skills so there’s a lot of coming changes to curriculum offers (Ebacc for all!), systems (UTCs & free schools for all!) and funding (12% cuts for all!) in schools. These (and the new Careers Company, and the pledged expansion of apprenticeships, and the changes to A Levels, the list goes on) will all affect the work of CEIAG practitioners in schools but, I have a nagging worry, that what will have the biggest impact on the work of colleagues in some areas of the country will be this:

At the end of the next 5 years, the job of persuading and encouraging students from poorer backgrounds that the journey they could take along aspirational careers routes is actually possible and realistic for them to do so will be much, much harder than it is now.

I’ve posted before on how statistics can be unhelpful for practitioners who want to motivate students. Of course, it isn’t the statistics there to blame, it’s the systematic halting of social mobility that the country has seen that holds the fault.

The IFS is clear that the poorest have borne the biggest brunt of the last 5 years of Coalition Government

but they also said in their post Budget briefing in March that living standards where on the rise

so remember, this isn’t a post about groups of society going backwards, it’s about groups of society being left behind.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at what the IFS think will happen under the proposed tax and benefit changes in the Conservative manifesto

Their proposed changes to benefits take more away from the poor

and their proposed changes to the personal allowance, higher rate and pensions allowance mean the more well off get to keep more of their earnings (apart from the very top decile group).

Supporters of these plans will point out that the improving economy and job prospects will be the drivers that allow families in those deciles to combat those loses to their incomes. Over recent years, the rise is foodbank use, the rise of “in-work” benefits and the expansion of the social support that schools are having to provide students show that this will not be an easy path.

In this context, the job of encouraging students in those left behind communities (map on page 20) that there are routes to aspirational employment roles will be a tough one. The task of connecting them to the enabling steps of careers education and work learning opportunities will be more demanding. From the young person’s point of view, the journey will look tougher, the path longer, the mountain more difficult to climb, the goal even further away.

In a wider look at what poverty means for education, Debra Kidd recently wrote:

Teachers in this country have taken Dweck’s growth mindset theory to their very hearts, because it reinforces the intentions we all have when we go into teaching – that we can help any child to succeed. That there is always a way. We have heard and responded to the beauty of ‘not yet’ instead of ‘I can’t’. And we have done this because we care and we want to make a difference. But give us a break – we may well be able to overcome the genetic hurdles placed in our way. But should we also have to overcome those created by our society and by our own politicians?

I fear it will be a similar question facing CEIAG workers over the course of this parliament.

So as not to end on a such a downbeat tone, we all know what the provisions we can fight for will be to face these challenges and help these students. Everything that makes up a great Careers program in a school will need to be in place, running smoothly to play whatever small part CEIAG can to counteract this outside influences. It’s a small morsel of comfort that the chair of the new Careers Company, Christine Hodgson, has already said that she wants it to focus on the areas with the most need.

With the changes already in the system, and the forthcoming changes in schools I mentioned at the beginning of this post (not least the contraction in funding), a huge challenge lies ahead for all CEIAG practitioners in schools but, I believe, it’s those in schools serving our most deprived areas that will need the greatest support.