Like a premature Santa who’s elves are simply terrible at making toys, Sir Micheal Wilshaw dropped down everyone’s chimney recently to deliver the Ofsted annual report 2014/15.
It contains a section titled “Preparing for next steps” (from para 45) which looks at CEIAG in schools over the year and delivers the usual rousing pep talk to get us through these dark winter months. The problem is though, some of it seems a bit conflicting with other Ofsted published views.
There is a Case study (between paragraphs 45 and 46) of 6 “low-performing schools in Nottingham” that were visited this year. It seems pretty clear which 6 schools these were by checking the dates on the Ofsted website. The Case study box is not complimentary about CEIAG in those schools
there was a lack of structured plans to raise pupils’ aspirations and extend their understanding of the array of available options
yet 3 of the individual school reports state:
Careers professionals and teachers guide students to make appropriate course choices well. All students last year accepted places to follow appropriate courses at the academy or post-16 colleges and schools. The course choices were well suited to the aptitudes and aspirations of the students. The academy takes its responsibility seriously to ensure that students make informed and appropriate choices for the next stage of their education.
The academy has strengthened its arrangements to support careers information and guidance. ‘Futures Fridays’ provide regular opportunities for pupils to learn about different employment and study choices from Year 8 onwards.
Students benefit from clear impartial careers guidance to plan their career pathways. Very few students do not remain in education, training or employment at the end of Year 11, reflecting their recently raised aspirations
which seems contradictory in the least.
Even more so when you look at the Education Destination measures for those last two schools and see that Nottingham University Samworth Academy and Ellis Guilford School have the two highest percentages in the town for “education destination not sustained.” Which all prompts the question, how much worth do the verdicts on CEIAG in school reports hold?
Which leads to Paragraph 46 which tells us that
In only a very small proportion of secondary school reports this year, 52 inspectors found practice in preparing pupils for employment through work experience or links with business and industry that merited inclusion in the inspection report.
The footnote goes onto explain that, while reviewing 290 inspection reports, only 5% contained positive comments relating to a schools relationships to businesses or work experience. Now, apart from not knowing the methodology there (did someone just F3 their way through every report PDF searching for “business”?), we should bear in mind the inspection regime for 2014/15. Outstanding schools were no longer routinely inspected and the Ofsted handbook section on CEIAG included this short section:
154. Inspectors should explore:
the extent to which the school has developed and implemented a
strategy for ensuring that all pupils in Years 8 to 13 receive effective
the impact of this guidance in helping young people to make
informed choices about their next steps
how well the school meets the needs of all vulnerable groups of
pupils, including reducing the numbers who do not continue to
education, employment or training
how well the school works with families to support them in
overcoming the cultural obstacles that often stand in the way of the
most able pupils from deprived backgrounds attending university.
I’m sure that schools with frequent links to business or (when the inspection occurred) a recent visit to an employer would’ve have highlighted that to the inspector. I know I did when my school was inspected and yet this didn’t make the final report. Inspection reports are not verbatim records of visits and would be unwieldy and pointless documents if they were. Inspectors use their expertise and handbooks to guide their writing of the final report and using the absence of a mention of business links isn’t proof it wasn’t mentioned and that it doesn’t happen. A much better method would’ve have been to quote the specific survey work that has been undertaken in this area.
Which all leads to a muddled and less then satisfying verdict on CEIAG in schools from the schools inspectorate but, not to worry, with a new strategy on careers coming from the Government, another select committee inquiry on the way and another focused survey from Ofsted, there’ll be plenty for everyone to mull over in the new year.