When a report about a report might be a good thing

If there’s one thing the world of school CEIAG doesn’t need, it’s another report into the failures of school CEIAG. So when “Year 11 student’s views of Career Education and Work Experience” from Kings College London turned up in the week, I was a little nonplussed. Though, on further examination and when follow up news later came, it seemed to me that this report might warrant greater attention.

Firstly, this is no small scale survey with little in the way of statistical controls and a PR axe to grind that sometimes grab the headlines. These are the findings of the Aspires 2 longitudinal 5 year study which includes results culled from views of over 13,000 Year 11s. Subsequently, there are lots of interesting nuggets in the document on young people’s views and experiences of CEIAG

kings college report 1

but it’s the findings on the discrepancy in careers support for those students from disadvantaged backgrounds compared to the average that might have the greatest impact.

Social Class: Students from less advantaged social backgrounds (with lower levels of cultural capital) Findings receive significantly less careers education and report being less satisfied – students from the most advantaged backgrounds are significantly more likely to receive careers education. For instance, a student with very high cultural capital is 1.49 times more like to receive careers education compared to a student with very low cultural capital.

(Btw – All careers practitioners should take a look at the conclusions of the report even if just to recentre and remind ourselves to ensure that students from across the background spectrum should be included in our work.)

Ultimately though, the findings wouldn’t shock too many of us careers folk working with young people. When you close a large scale State intervention (Connexions) and leave the market to plan the unfunded provision left it turns out that it’s the easier wins that get won. Huh, who knew.

The follow up to this report came swiftly with the news that the Education Endowment Foundation will look into, “the current state of careers education and identify the most effective ways to provide this service.” The work will be carried out by Dr Deidre Hughes and Dr Anthony Mann of the Education & Employers Taskforce. Now, usually at this point my “policy wonk” patience limit would have been reached as, rather than actually enact some change, all we had was news of another report. Yet, it’s the possibilities of this forthcoming work which hold some hope.

Government departments, just like schools, in tight financial times, want to know what works and what bang for your buck you’re going to get from each intervention. CEIAG work has a growing evidence base to show worth across it’s different forms be that employer engagement or career guidance but what this work actually looks like in schools is less clear. Frameworks try to define this and guidance can include best practice case studies but this still can leave school leaders unclear about what this work looks like in their institutions. Compare those to publications such as the EEF’s Teaching & Learning  toolkit which clearly sets out costs, evidence strength and impact to learners for each type of provision. School leaders welcome this sort of clarity, “More than half of secondary school leaders now say they use the Toolkit.” Imagine a similar tool for CEIAG interventions showing just how much worth a careers fair vs an employer visit vs a mentoring scheme vs face to face guidance vs an enterprise day has. Maybe it would make schools focus on what really works in CEIAG. Perhaps it would force practitioners, including myself, to reflect on our own practice and alter our own programmes to focus on interventions with the most impact not just to do what we’ve always done because “it fits.” It could even help position careers work to be seen by schools leaders not as an add on, but as an intervention they can deploy to help disadvantaged learners just like any other they currently do. Presented and communicated well to school leaders, this forthcoming report could be a real positive for careers work in schools.





  1. I too am sick of hearing about enquiry as a substitute for action. That issue about “impact” is a key one in the whole debate. There are so many learning or developmental interventions that are difficult to evaluate in “scientific” ways. Take schooling as an example. You probably experienced supportive interventions from particular teachers (or whoever) which may not have borne fruit in any measurable way until later – possibly many years later. I certainly did!

    The education system devised a cunning plan to sidestep this uncertainty. They’re called exams. They said to themselves “Let’s act as if the purpose of education is to fill young people’s heads with knowledge and then at regular intervals test whether they have remembered it. We can then assign a normative grade to each pupil for each subject and, hey presto, we can demonstrate the value and effectiveness of schooling!”

    Have we missed a trick here? Imagine if government introduced a compulsory exam at 16+ for career related learning? And the results featured prominently in league tables? Lets go really crazy here and imagine providers of vocational training and further (or higher) education demanding a minimum grade in applicants’ CLC (that’s career learning certificate folks!). What do you think? Would such an arrangement serve to focus the thinking of school leaders?

    1. Hi Chris,

      I think it’s an interesting debate whether Careers work should be judged on assessment or student outcome.

      Any measurement that takes a pivotal role in a league table or other accountability measure is something that would focus the thinking of school leaders. A “CLC would have to have some quite sharp elbows to force a space in this thinking. School leaders are already dealing with the forthcoming Progress and Attainment 8 accountability measures which, combined with the increased content in the new GCSEs, means that the average students timetable is now very full. Adding another qualification here, with the learning time needed to reach the quality to pass Ofqual requirements and show value to employers, would be met with a thin smile.

      The confusion over these changes could mean that schools (and confused parents) place much more worth on institution destination data

      To my mind it’s this which has potential to focus school leaders minds on CEIAG provision.

      That’s a lever Government can pull, as long as it does the legwork to ensure the destaintion data is good data. The forthcoming work from the EEF mentioned in this blog could be the CEIAG “how to” which still means the resources to do it still need finding.

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