Month: March 2017

An example of misguided CEIAG blaming

As someone who likes keeping up to date with CEIAG policy changes and events, I read a lot of articles both in the mainstream and specialist media who give CEIAG a right good thwacking.

If it’s a think piece on the latest terrible social mobility stats, make sure to include a bash of CEIAG in schools.

300 words on the lack of esteem parents hold for vocational courses, make sure to include a swing at school CEIAG.

Are you a business owner baffled by the low number of young people starting apprenticeships, then Careers advice in schools is surely your issue.

Most of these type of articles will include a reference to the (now four years old) Ofsted report “Going in the right direction” on the standards of careers guidance provision in secondary schools to show the research has been done but not many will point to more recent Ofsted publications that say things are improving.

And, the bit that stings, is they usually have a point. An overblown point that fails to acknowledge other deficiencies in the system such as low apprenticeship pay, the poor reputation of vocational qualifications and the fact that demand for apprenticeships vastly outstrips supply but still a point.

This open goal for journalists and freelancers looking to add a few more shares and likes from the education community ready to reconfirm their suspicions that CEIAG is naff can sometimes be missed though.

A recent(ish) article in the Guardian spoiled what was a well researched round-up of the current CEIAG landscape by over reaching on it’s causality to what inspired the article in the first place.

Young people need to be better equipped for the world of work. This is something that schools and government agree on, but there have been frequent criticisms of the careers information they provide.

Last week a report for the Social Mobility Commission found that children from poorer backgrounds face a “class earnings penalty” when they enter the workplace. And a recent Ofsted report found that of 40 schools, just four were providing adequate careers advice to their students.

Which, on the face of it, seems like a fair connection to make, that is, until you read that section of the actual report.

social mobility report3

So let’s be clear on what those findings mean. An employee, despite having the same levels of education and experience doing the same job as a colleague earns over £2000 less a year because they come from a working class background.

The researchers found this pay difference is more pronounced social mobility report4

when they looked at difference aspects of the class divide but the fact that it remains when all of the factors are controlled for is remarkable.

The report goes on to speculate on some of the possible reasons for this finding on the “supply side”

As previous work suggests, the mobile may specialise in less lucrative areas (Cook, Faulconbridge, and Muzio 2012; Ashley 2015), may be more reluctant to ask for pay raises, have less access to networks facilitating work opportunities (Macmillan, Tyler, and Vignoles 2015), or in some cases even exclude themselves from seeking promotion because of anxieties about “fitting in” (Friedman 2015).

and the “demand side”

they are either consciously or unconsciously given fewer rewards in the workplace than those from more advantaged backgrounds. This may manifest as outright discrimination or snobbery (Friedman et al 2016), or it may have to do with more subtle processes of favouritism or ‘culturalmatching’, whereby elite employers misrecognise social and cultural traits rooted in middle class backgrounds as signals of merit and talent (Rivera, 2015; Ashley, 2015).

Which is where the link to CEIAG in schools falls down. While the supply side characteristics are qualities that (to different extents) public sector intervention in the form of CEIAG can contest the demand side factors are beyond our sphere. And it’s those practices which, only through fundamental changes of attitude and practice in the workplace, will progress be made on discrimination against employees from working class backgrounds.

 

 

 

Advertisements

The CEC needs more than PR to judge it’s progress

The DfE plan to address shortcomings in school CEIAG provision rests heavily upon the success of the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC). The work of the CEC is becoming more diversified as it begins to fund other activities beyond it’s original thread of recruiting and organising a nationwide army of Enterprise Advisers corralled by a smaller squadron of Enterprise Coordinators to work with educational institutions. This has required a recruitment drive which, the CEC would say, has gone amazingly well

but, anecdotally,

has struggled to gain traction across the sector.

The number of Enterprise Advisers working with the CEC has been regularly mentioned in their PR communications.

In June 2016, the CEC released their first annual report “Joining the Dots” which stated

cec1

Then, in October 2016, a Government response to a joint Education & Business committee report stated that the CEC had

already appointed 78 coordinators and almost 1200 advisers

and that

Over 700 schools and colleges (in 37 out of 38 Local Enterprise Partnership areas in England) have been helped to develop better careers and enterprise programmes for their pupils

 

By November 2016, this had grown to “more than 1300.”

We have recruited more than 1,300 Enterprise Advisers

In January 2017, the numbers touted were

A third of schools and colleges in the country are currently matched with an Enterprise Adviser – senior business volunteers connecting more than 1,300 schools and colleges

Last week the CEC released another press statement to celebrate the news that the number of Enterprise Advisers had grown

More than 1,300 senior employers from small family-owned firms to global corporations are working with headteachers across the country to help shape career programmes and employer engagement plans since the Company started operations just over 18-months ago.

and that this meant

that the government-backed Company has gone from a standing start to pairing business volunteers with almost half of all secondary schools and colleges in England with a combined population of more than 1.3million students.

which sounds very impressive but is ensconced in the language of public relations. “More than 1,300 senior employers,” “more than 1.3 million students” which isn’t very specific when reporting outcomes of public expenditure.

The statistic there regarding Enterprise Advisers is doubly vague as it refers to “employers” (rather than the November 2016 update which mentions Advisers) which could include (multiple) examples of more than one employee from the same employer offering to volunteer. This would mean that the number of actual Advisers could be a lot more than 1300 yet this figure was also used to refer to the number of Advisers by the CEC in March 2017

Which begs the question, just how many Advisers have the CEC recruited?

This possible figure is also confused by the statement “almost half of all secondary schools and colleges in England” are now matched with Advisers.

In September 2016 there were 325 Colleges in England.

The DfE 2016 annual statistics bulletin shows there are 3401 Secondary schools in England.

secondary schools1

So that’s a total of 3726.

50% = 1863 which is a little more than 1300 which is described as “nearly half.”

If we speculate that the number of actual Enterprise Advisers is 1350 that would equal 36% of schools and colleges in England are matched with an Adviser which is closer to the “third” mentioned in the January 2017 press notice.

This guesswork is just that, guesswork. If the CEC publishes its annual report in June again, it will be a few months until a clear figure is published, with only confusing and contradictory press notices to rely upon.

The CEC is (currently) a publicly funded organisation with a number of different funding announcements comprising its total cash injection

cec2

Earlier this week a much larger pot of Government funding received scrutiny from the Public Accounts Committee when they looked at the National Citizenship Service (NCS) and concluded that it was failing to meet recruitment targets, failing to disclose directors salaries, not providing value for money and failing to determine outcomes for young people for the high level of public investment received. The actual report is forensic. While dealing with a much smaller funding pot to the NCS, the CEC should also receive this sort of scrutiny.

Laws upon laws, duties upon duties…

As, I would imagine, most readers of this blog would be aware, Secondary schools in England have a current statutory duty to provide CEIAG on all routes to their pupils. Despite this, Vocational and apprenticeship providers and policy lobbyists are making loud noises about the need for further legislation in this area.

It was around this time last year that a Careers law was first mooted that would ensure that Vocational and Apprenticeship providers would have access to schools to provide guidance to pupils. At the time I blogged to point out that, if schools, Ofsted and the DfE were all performing the roles the Duty placed on them, then no further legislation was necessary and that any further law was an indication of failure of the system of statutory tools to lever change in a fragmented school system. This law founded with the failure of the Government’s wider “Education for all” Bill which hit the rocks of the Brexit vote, a reshuffle and opposition to forced academy status.

The past weeks have seen essentially competing proposed new legislation come into Parliament to cover CEIAG provision in schools. First up, was the “Baker clause” which is named after Lord Baker, who has used his position in the House of Lords to insert a clause into the Government’s technical and further education bill that would ensure that:

The proprietor of a school in England must ensure that there is an opportunity for a range of education and training providers to access registered pupils during the relevant phase of their education

The actual wording of the Bill (page 2, section 2) seems comprehensive. It places a requirement on schools to write and update and publicly available policy statement that sets out the circumstances under which vocational providers will be given access to students and for what reasons such requests could be refused. I would assume, that the writing of this statement and subsequent responding to requests would then be an administrative task for the school careers leader and line manager to manage. The bill is currently passing through the House of Lords before passing back to the Houses of Parliament for any amendments to be confirmed before Royal Assent. Lord Baker has more than a passing interest in this area as the leading proponent of the UTC school model which has experienced huge difficulties in recruitment of students at both 14 and 16 and been branded as failing by Micheal Gove. That brought a forthright response from Baker but he is clear about the need to ensure recruitment (and so subsequent per pupil funding) is much easier for his Headteachers. Baker foresees his clause forcing schools to hold career events (read: fairs) to allow Vocational providers to speak to students at key recruitment times throughout the academic year.

Just a few days later, this was followed by a ten minute rule Bill from the Labour MP Nic Dakin also legislating for access to secondary school pupils from Vocational providers. Dakin said that his Bill would go further than Baker’s as:

My Bill will ensure that school pupils have access to information from the providers of post-16 pathways locally direct to them. It will require schools in England to provide access to their premises and pupils for post-16 education establishments and other providers.

The wording of the actual Bill isn’t clear on how this would be different and, at the time of writing, it has far further to travel through the legislation process until it becomes part of the Education Act 1997 and so law. This Bill does have more support from the wider FE sector than Baker’s clause and is not tainted by association of the accusation of only trying to save the struggling UTC brand so, perhaps, will gain wider support.

To further complicate matters, these competing acts of legislation coming on top of an already existing statutory duty will soon be joined by a new, overarching, Careers Strategy sometime in 2017.

As well as the complications arising from overlaying legislation, many Careers practitioners in schools will be raising their eyebrows at the problems this doesn’t solve. It doesn’t solve the funding issues, it doesn’t solve the capacity issues and, furthermore, the rhetoric around these Bills aligns access to vocational talks as the white knight, riding in to save school CEIAG provision.