Month: February 2018

The apprenticeship accountability hole in the Careers Strategy

Now that the Careers Strategy and both the subsequent Statutory Guidance for Schools and the Guidance for Colleges and Sixth Forms has been published, thoughts turn to not just implementation of the ambitions contained in all 3 documents but how the progress of the sector (and Government) will be measured against them.

A cornerstone of both the Careers Strategy and the Statutory Guidance for Schools is the need to improve the awareness of and the aspiration to apply for apprenticeship routes in young people.

The Careers Strategy decrees that the new Baker Clause law will ensure that young people are, ” are clear about the opportunities offered by technical, employment-focused education” (para 32). It highlights the work and the resources offered by the Apprenticeship Ambassador Network as a way of promoting the route. STEM apprenticeships should be promoted (para 44), the £4m funded training for 500 of the newly defined Career Leader posts in schools will include information about apprenticeships and the revamped National Careers Service website will include apprenticeship information as well as allowing young people to apply for vacancies through the site.

Meanwhile, the Statutory Guidance for Schools again is clear on the requirement to include information on apprenticeships in careers provision and promotes organisations such as Amazing Apprenticeships and the ASK Apprenticeship scheme as well as the steps needed for a school to be compliant with the Baker Clause (paras 61-69).

This is all to be welcomed by Careers practitioners in schools looking for more power to their elbow to help them prepare an impartial careers programme. What is missing though from both documents and, it seems, wider Department For Education thinking is how this provision will be evaluated. The Statutory Guidance document includes reference to how Ofsted will evaluate the outcomes of this work

Destination Measures

A successful careers guidance programme will also be reflected in higher numbers of pupils progressing to positive destinations such as apprenticeships, technical routes, sixth form colleges, further education colleges, universities or employment. Destination measures provide clear and comparable information on the success of schools in helping all of their pupils take qualifications that offer them the best opportunity to continue in education or training.

in their Section 5 inspections. If the entire evaluation of this theme of the Careers Strategy and Guidance is just these (sometimes very infrequent) inspections of schools below Outstanding grade) looking at destinations of KS4 & KS5 leavers, then a lot of schools will be harshly judged for their work.

We know that employers favour hiring older employees for their apprenticeships as Ofsted laid out in their 2015 report “Apprenticeships: developing skills for future prosperity (para 26).

While still early after the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, it should also be noted that the number of Level 2 apprenticeships accessible for school leavers is falling while the growth is in the higher Degree Level apprenticeships, many of which are not new positions but current employees taking new training.

This further narrowing in the number of opportunities for young people to actually progress into means that using only destination measures to monitor the success of careers provision is a metric weighed heavily against schools.

A much fairer way would be to measure both the aspiration of young people to progress into an apprenticeship route and then the number of applications made. At institutional level, collecting this data would be the responsibility of the Careers Leader but at regional and national level, the Government should surely be collating this.

The intentions of young people are regularly assessed by the DfE in their Omnibus Survey series of surveys, the most recent of which shows that apprenticeships still have a journey to make to become a first choice for significant numbers of students

That being said, as Ofsted noted above, young people have always been the largest cohort of registrations and applications on the Find An Apprenticeship portal as the spreadsheets here show. As you can see from the number of registrations by age and number of applications by age spreadsheets, interest from those 19 and under has always outstripped the supply of vacancies.

The problem is that the DfE has now stopped publishing these figures. This will be a substantive hole in the accountability data for the success of the Careers Strategy and the Statutory Guidance for schools.

Judging the progress and impact of the Careers Strategy and Statutory Guidance for schools is a wide reaching task but one that will only possible in any meaningful, quantifiable way, if data such as the number of applications for apprenticeships made young people of school leaver age is collected and published. The DfE should rethink their decision to stop publishing these stats.

 

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February 2018 Careers Guidance for FE & Sixth Form Colleges

The final chapter in a slew of recently published careers guidance documents and reports is a pair of publications focusing on CEIAG provision in FE & Sixth Form Colleges in England.

Coming after the Careers Strategy, the Gatsby benchmarks for schools, the Statutory schools Guidance and it’s sister document Good Career Guidance Benchmarks for Young People in Colleges, Careers Guidance: Guidance for further education colleges and sixth form colleges, it’s important to note, is not a Statutory document for the Further Education Sector. The exempt charitable status of many of the providers in the sector does not allow for such diktats. Where the leverage comes from for the compliance with the standards and expectations set out in the document are the clear warnings that failure to adhere could result in the withdrawal of ESFA grant funding (which would be a major decision to take).

Following from their work on school CEIAG standards which was well received by both practitioners and policy markers, Gatsby again supply the backbone of the standards document. In this instance though a critical piece of work is missing which then damages confidence in all that follows. The original Gatsby report used a number of sources to build their recommended standards. As well as looking at provision in other countries, reviewing research and interviewing stakeholders, the Foundation also commissioned PWC to figure how much this would cost an average school. For the College document, conversations with Colleges seem to have happened but no specific costing documents have been published. This missing building block means that the recommended standards of provision that follow ring a little hollow, especially in the sector of education that has a building consensus of agreement in its underfunding.

The guidance in the document itself falls into three categories:

  1. Provision that makes perfect sense
  2. Provision that makes perfect sense but is going to need a lot more resource
  3. The Brexit Unicorn is riding into town before this happens

Provision that makes perfect sense

Much does. Asking every College to have a “Careers Leader” to mirror the forthcoming role in schools means that each Post 16 provider can still tailor their student service offer but ensures that a named individual is responsible. An embedded programme of CEIAG that is reviewed regularly, that keeps learner records of interactions and challenges stereotypical thinking would please all practitioners. It’s good to see destinations data achieve clear priority and the requirement for employer interactions is only sensible considering the relevant research and the entire remit of most Further Education provision. Asking for clear links between Careers Leaders and SEN provision at previous stages of the learners journey is welcome. Building the work of the CEC into Post 16 Careers work, after the work of the Local Area Reviews, continues the link to local labour market demand. Finally, the clear recommendation for guidance interviews to be conducted by Level 6 and above qualified advisers is a clear signpost for dedicated student support teams in Post 16 provision rather than “one stop shop” offers.

Provision that makes perfect sense by is going to need a lot more resource

As the forthcoming T Levels will also demand, ensuring that work experience is a standard component of a study programme is a desirable outcome but one which will require a lot more opportunities for work experience placements.

Expanding the remit of the CEC to enable Colleges and schools to meet all of the Benchmarks across both Guidance documents is sensible but, I’m sure Enterprise Co-ordaintors would agree, they would need more support than just new provision mapping tools to achieve this. A release of a College specific Compass tool in September 2018 is welcome but will not be near enough.

The Brexit Unicorn rides into town

Benchmark 8 is the steepest mountain to climb. It requires that every 16-18 learner has at least one guidance interview before the end of the course. This would be a huge demand on staffing levels across many Colleges. I think that, comparably my own College is well staffed. We have 4 Advisers (including myself) and part-time resource support working across 3 larger sites and another 4 satellite sites. Approximately 4000 Post 16 learners study across the full spectrum of post 16 provision. We strive to make our service as accessible as possible but it would be true that if all of these learners were to take up a full guidance interview then our work with Adult learners, part-time learners and the community will be impacted. Achieving this benchmark would require a fundamental expansion of our staffing levels and, I suspect, the vast majority of Post 16 provision would have to invest from a lower base .

Another requirement that, I think, is pie in the sky is the Benchmark 3 guidance that

records of advice given should be integrated with those given at the previous stage of the learner’s education (including their secondary school) where these are made available

I just can’t foresee standard practice across the country of Careers Leaders in secondary schools getting permission from pupils and then sharing guidance records of all students to all of their destinations. It might happen in pockets across MATs or school to adjoined or local Sixth Form transitions but not to Further Education Colleges.

Post 16 careers provision is a different, more varied beast than provision in secondary schools. The landscape of curriculum, qualification and delivery are all more diverse meaning that the journey and destinations are also wider. This means challenges for any standardization guidance but one that would really want to make a change would be a project that took upon itself the, admittedly considerable, work of finding out how much this would all cost separate from the previous school costings.