Month: November 2016

16/17 KS4 leavers and apprenticeship schemes

Now that we are a way into the 2016/2017 academic calendar it is a good time to look at a huge test for how the worlds of education and business interact over the coming months.

This academic years Key Stage 4 leavers will be the first to receive their GCSE grades in English Language, English Literature and Maths in the new grading system of 9 – 1. How this compares to the historic A-G grading system is show below


As the description says, this means that 16/17 leavers will receive a mixture of 9-1 and A-G grades from their GCSE qualifications. Students may also be taking Btec L2s (which report as Distinction, Merit, Pass) and other qualifications such as the much maligned ECDL so will also have different grading schemes in their set of results.

So, a student opening their results envelop in August 2017 might see something like this (from this Ofqual PP):


This will continue for 17/18 leavers as more GCSEs such as Art, the Sciences, Drama & Geography are accredited in the new manner and then into 18/19 as subjects such as Sociology, D&T & Engineering join them.

The wider impact of these changes throughout the systems of education and employment dependent on understanding the context of those grade indicators could be messy. Getting the message through about the changes to students and their parents is a challenge in itself and one which Ofqual has been keen to gain help from schools but the bigger challenge remains of explaining this to employers. Hints at the scale of the communication challenge can be found in the employer response to the forthcoming apprenticeship levy

If a new funding system that will directly impact a company’s bottom line and their immediate training pipeline is struggling to gain widespread understanding then a seemingly (to those outside education) superficial change to GCSE grading is a difficult concept to gain traction. As anybody working in careers in schools will attest, many speakers from employers still come into school and wish the students good luck in their “O Levels.”

This lack of understanding has immediate impacts. Over the past few and forthcoming weeks many of the school leaver and apprenticeship schemes from larger employers will begin to be advertised for September 2017 starts.

The Airbus Group Engineering Apprenticeships, the Glaxo SmithKline Engineering Apprenticehips and the Manufacturing Apprenticeship at Selex Leonardo are all open for applications at the time of writing (November 2017). All three schemes are for September or Summer 2017 starts, all three are open to applicants who will be leaving Key Stage 4 in summer 2017 and all 3 ask for A-C GCSE requirements.


Not a mention of 9-1 grades. Yet many of the opportunities at larger employer require applicants to apply via the employers own website where, on the GSK site, the 9-1 scale is mentioned:


These are just a few examples of the many schemes that will be opened to 16/17 leavers over the next few months. It may add complexity but HR managers need to be including the new grading system in their job descriptions and adverts to smooth applications from younger students. Otherwise mixed messages and the inflexibility of drop down menus on online applications holds potential to discourage and confuse 16/17 leavers and parents from engaging with apprenticeship routes.

In recent years, business organisations have successfully positioned business as a sphere that is keen to engage with education, dissatisfied with the current skills on offer from young workers and with the ability to rapidly react to change. Publications such as the annual CBI Education & Skills survey place the emphasis on what business requires from education. Well, over this application season building up to the summer results, education needs a rapid and clear response from business.



The bit the Sub-Committee left out

It’s been days, whole 24 hour periods of time have passed, since a report has been published by some organisation or another on the state of Careers work in English schools. So, this week, the Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy decided to break the silence by publishing the first Joint Report of the Business, Innovation and Skills and Education Committees of Session 2016-2017.

This followed the usual Committee procedure of taking written evidence, visiting providers and taking oral evidence from witnesses.

The inquiry itself was a follow up to the Education Committee inquiry published back in July (my take on that here) as the Sub-Committee felt that the Government response was lacklustre.

The Sub-Committee report reiterates many of the phrases and conclusions seen before across the multitude of Careers reports in the past few years. Careers provision in schools is “patchy,” drink. Schools with Sixth Forms are “reluctant to provide impartial advice and guidance,” drink. That the marketplace for Careers services to schools and students is “overly complicated,” drink. Like a wedding band Beatles, the report covers all the hits.

One aspect that was noticeable though on my reading, is that the Sub-Committee likes spending schools money.

Recommendation 2

An effective school careers programme should include a combination of impartial and independent advice and guidance, careers education embedded in the curriculum, and opportunities for students to engage with employers. We consider the Gatsby Foundation’s eight benchmarks a useful statement of the careers provision to which all schools should be aspiring. The Government’s policy objective should be to incentivise all schools to ensure their careers provision is brought up to a good standard and to hold them to account when they fail to do so.

Recommendation 10

We recommend that the Government, once the new quality brand is in place, amend statutory guidance to require all schools to work towards being accredited under this brand, and only to use careers services from organisations holding it.

Recommendation 11

We recommend that the Government statutory guidance is amended to require those delivering advice and guidance in schools to hold, at a minimum, a relevant level 6 qualification.

Recommendation 18

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.

Those four recommendations aren’t the only ones that relate directly to schools but those are the ones that come with a £ cost attached. How much? Well, the Gatbsy report which is much quoted my the Sub-Committee has already done the hard yards here and included a cost breakdown for schools wanting to reach it’s benchmarks. For all secondary schools in England this reaches a rough figure of £181m. The costing laid out in the Gatsby report include an annual £15,000 for CPD and £8,000 for organising the health & safety and administration requirements needed for a work experience program, so that covers Recommendations 11 and 18.

What isn’t included in the Gatsby costing though is funding for Quality Awards inspection. Again, I’ve previously calculated that this would be around £5.71m for every school in England to achieve one.

So, from this one report, that’s £186.71m schools are expected to find from their existing budgets with £181m of that to be found every academic year.

School funding is extremely tight with the number of schools running deficits growing. There is plenty else in the Sub-Committee report that I could take issue with (the reliance on an inspectorate who won’t even visit around 20% of schools to inspect CEIAG for example) but it’s the complete lack of consideration of how schools are going to fund the recommendations they put forward that deserves the greatest annoyance.