Month: July 2016

Knowing what CEIAG works: The #EEinETconf

It’s rare that I get out to large-scale conferences due to school commitments and cost but I was very fortunate last week to be able to attend the joint Edge Foundation & Education & Employers Taskforce International Conference on Employer Engagement in Education & Training. This was mostly due to the pricing of the early bird tickets for the two-day event which, frankly, put the cost of other big conferences in this area to shame.

For a careers geek like me, both days were full of superbly interesting stuff. Of course, the keynote sessions from the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher and Harvard’s Robert Schwartz took the biggest rooms but it was some of the breakout presentations that I found the most fascinating.

Previous research by the Education & Employers Taskforce has already helped shaped the current policy thinking in careers work in schools. Their use of longitudinal and survey data shows a consistent trend in the worth of employer interaction in a student’s future success (example 1 & example 2) in the labour market. The impact those wage gain headline figures can have on the views of policymakers has been obvious with the foundation of the Careers & Enterprise Company to help facilitate these kind of interactions. (In fact, a continuing theme across the Conference was the need for academics to present the headlines of their research in short, catchy bullet points for busy Ministerial eyes).

Two of the sessions in particular focused on summary type academic research projects, that is research which combines and compares findings from other studies. One of these was the launch of an International Literature Review on Careers Education by Deirdre Hughes and Dr Anthony Mann. I’ve blogged about this work previously.

The second session was an overview of work carried out by the team at the Education & Employers Taskforce looking at academic literature which “explores the relationship between adult economic outcomes and teenage school mediated work related experiences and attitudes.”

Some of the outcomes of the individual studies covered are fascinating in their own right

 

for the insight into the benefits students gain from the sort of provision school CEIAG practitioners are organising every term but it is in the collation and comparison of the outcomes found such as in these two pieces of work that real benefits will be found. The larger the number of studies collated and compared, the more obvious outliers will be and the more robust the findings for the beneficial outcomes of each type of CEIAG provision. As the Powerpoint from Mann, Kashefpakdel & McKeown says in the penultimate slide (and I hoped for in my previous post), this work should result in a toolkit for practitioners to use in the Autumn. At a time when budget holders are under increasing pressure to spend their scarce resources wisely, toolkits which clearly show “bang for your buck” that is, the expected outcomes for specific interventions (especially for more disadvantaged learners), are almost vital. Knowing what works is always beneficial for galvanising practitioners but being to show what works is extremely important for negotiating time and resources from budget holders to actually enact that provision.

The whole two-day conference was full of insights into different provision and approaches to employer engagement in education but it was these two presentations that showed just how close we are to quantifying the benefits to learners of each item on the school CEIAG menu.

Some kind of bliss – on timing for Careers reports

Today saw (yet another) report on Careers work in school added to the library of publications released on the matter. The sub-Committee on Education, Skills & the Economy published a report on the findings of it’s inquiry into the state of CEIAG in schools.  The recommendations and conclusions within retread old ground of those previously recommended by Education Select Committees and takes a lot of direction from the report du jour, the Gatsby Foundation report on Careers.

Some of those detailed recommendations make sense, for example:

We invite the Government, in its response, to set out a comprehensive plan for improving destination data, including the timescales for doing so. This plan should include steps to make the data available in a more timely way and to ensure that they cover a longer period of time, and give more details on how the data will draw on information held by other Government departments. The Government should also consider how best to present its destination data, to mitigate the risk that schools are judged primarily on the number of their students going onto higher education.

 

We recommend that the Government, in its careers strategy, take steps to simplify the delivery of its careers policy at the national level. It should put a single Minister and a single Department in charge of co-ordinating careers provision for all ages, and set out how it plans to rationalise the number of Government-funded organisations delivering careers programmes.

 

We recommend that the Government work with employers and schools to produce a plan to ensure that all students at Key Stage 4 have the opportunity to take part in meaningful work experience.

all get a big thumbs up from me.

Other points such as for the Careers & Enterprise Company to take on the “inspiration agenda” work of the National Careers Service might be good strategic ideas but, as an end facilitator of that provision, I’m more concerned that high quality provision is on offer. How the email invites actually make their way to my inbox doesn’t bother me.

What does concern me though is the sheer unfortunate timing of the whole report and seemingly oblivious to external factors the report (actually written on the 29th June) is.

Firstly the report is published in the post-Brexit maelstrom. We currently have a barely functioning Parliament as both main parties are gripped in their own internal struggles. Getting traction from Ministers caught up promoting their favoured candidates in the Conservative Leadership election will be difficult before the summer recess and, with a General Election a possible blot on the horizon (and so a new Education Secretary) not likely after. If Brexit can scupper an entire White Paper, what hope a report from a sub-committee? Will the report be championed by the opposition? Well, it would need a quick grasp of a new brief from a new Shadow Education MP only a few days into her role after the previous incumbent lasted two days.

The aftershock of the Brexit vote on Government business cannot be underestimated. The Institute for Government rates the Life Chances Strategy (of which the Careers & Enterprise Company is a component) as “delayed” and highly dependent on whoever takes the Tory leadership crown.

Another iceberg in the way of traction is the Chilcot report on the Iraq War. Released the day after the sub-Committee Careers report, it is sure to consume news headlines and, already hard pressed, Parliamentary focus.

Then there is the reliance in the report on Ofsted to monitor CEIAG provision in schools which doesn’t appear to quite realise what’s happening to Ofsted.

We recommend that Ofsted introduce a specific judgment on careers information, advice and guidance for secondary schools, and set clear criteria for making these judgments. The Common Inspection Framework should be amended to make clear that a secondary school whose careers provision is judged as “requires improvement” or “inadequate” cannot be judged to be “outstanding” overall; likewise, a secondary school should be unable to receive an overall judgment of “good” if its careers provision is judged to be “inadequate”.

For context, this academic year has seen a sharp fall in the number of schools Ofsted is actually inspecting due, in part, to a new “targeted” inspection framework. One goal of a “self improving system” is to have this more targeted Inspectorate but the £31m funding “black hole” Ofsted faces over the next four years will drive the inspection framework just as much. Add to this the appointment of a new Chief Inspector from 2017 who will have her own views and priorities and it becomes concerning that relying on an Office for Standards without resources to monitor those standards perhaps isn’t the most effective driver of then improving those standards.

Back in 1997, Kylie Minogue released a track called “Some Kind of Bliss” as the opening to a new direction in her career. An expensive video was shot, indie credibility from the Manic Street Preachers brought in and a whole promotional blitz was planned. Then, on the Sunday before, Princess Diana died, the country had a collective weep and went out in their millions and brought Elton John instead. Kylie’s dalliance with indie was consigned to the musical dustbin. Releasing reports designed to improve CEIAG in the wake of the Brexit vote will have as much impact as when an Australian pop princesses tried to grab onto Britpop’s vanishing coat tails.