Month: December 2018

My book journey of 2018

I really enjoyed looking back over my 2017 reading list about this time last year so here’s this year’s edition!

  1. Think Small; the surprisingly simple ways to reach big goals – Owain Service & Rory Gallagher (2017)

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Which I posted about here.

2. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution – Robert Middlekauff (2007)

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The history of the United States fascinates me as it is a nation I can still see evolving today. From the debate over the 2nd Amendment and it’s applicability to a time of assault rifles to the legacy of slavery and it’s implications still on the life chances of Americans of colour, this is history with a pulse. The Oxford History of the United States series of which this was the first edition, is a wonderful collection of superbly researched and written books. This is right up there with the best as Middlekauff covers the build up to, the battles within and the settling dust of the Revolution. Giants of nation building and war craft such John Adams (about which there is an excellent HBO drama series covering much of the same period), George Washington and Benjamin Franklin all play their part in the drama and the monumental decisions they take is given the context for you to really appreciate the scale of the tasks they set themselves. Glorious stuff indeed.

3. The Nix – Nathan Hill (2016)

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A long but fairly diverting novel following a number of separate but not so separate stories of a range of characters including a failed writer, reconnecting with mother after 20 years to use her news worthiness to grab a new publishing deal but instead hearing about her counter-culture protesting days in the 60s. I enjoyed it, but the characters haven’t stayed with me.

4. Breaking Bad 101: The Complete Critical Companion – Alan Sepinwall (2017)

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After finishing the (outstanding) show I ripped through this stocking filler book really quickly as it covers, episode by episode, the behind the scenes and writing background for each and provides some interesting titbits about the making of the show.

5. The Explorers: Stories of Discovery and Adventure from the Australian Frontier – Tim Flannery (2000)

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The most disappointing book of the year. After travelling through Australia in the early 2000s, I have been fascinated with the explorers who saw such a huge , undiscovered country and thought to themselves, “Yep, I’ll walk across that.” This is a compendium of first source writings that cover many expeditions across various parts of the massive continent and, while some offer glimpse into the hardships and sense of a disappearing wilderness, in total I was left wanting. I felt that I had not gained an insight into the sense of wonder, trepidation or bravery that those explorers sensed as they first stepped into the un-mapped and the unknown.

6. The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah (2015)

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Reminiscent in tone and subject matter to another WWII novel, All the Light we Cannot See, The Nightingale follows the traumatic tales of two sisters in war-torn France as they, in their own different ways, do what they need to survive through the German occupation. About a third of the way in to the book I remember still feeling skeptical about it as it felt more of a Hallmark movie than a serious novel but, by the end, I was a blubbing mess praying that someone, anyone left in story would find a glimmer of happiness.

7. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI – David Grann (2017)

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Soon to be filmed by Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, this is a history book that is so utterly outlandish in the unfairness, corruption and depravity of human nature it describes that, even now, I struggle to believe the story it tells is true. The terribly sad thing is though that the story of what happened to the Osage people after oil was discovered on their Government given land in the 1920s certainly happened. A brilliantly crafted work.

8. Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders (2017)

I tackled the 2017 Man Booker prize winner not knowing what to expect as many reviews had commented on the “experimental” nature to the book and was left extremely moved by some passages (particularly as the broken Abraham Lincoln visits his dead son’s grave in the dead of the night to say his final goodbyes) but mostly finished nonplussed by the ethereal nature of the prose and the setting.

9. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era – James M. McPherson (1988)

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More US history from the Oxford Press series but this time concentrating on the fight amongst themselves. This is a simply wonderful book, perhaps the best in the series I’ve read yet. The scholarship on display to present so many sources into a coherent narrative is amazing and the history breathes because of it. Both the motivations and areas of disagreement of the North and the South are presented fairly and such that the reader can see why they believed they were standing up for the “freedom” described in the Constitution. There are no easy villains or heroes here. The slow movement towards the unthinkable of civil war is captured brilliantly as are the giants of Lincoln, Grant and Robert E.Lee.

10. The Bellwether Revivals – Benjamin Wood (2012)

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A slight novel about a mismatched group of friends in Cambridge following them as they fall in love, deal with a family member’s delusional behaviour and battle with the implications of their own disparate upbringings. I liked it but didn’t love it.

11. Pure – Andrew Miller (2011)

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A book that had been on my reading list for a long time and one that delivered when I finally got around to reading it. A cracking novel of intrigue, love, friendships and unwilling heroes as an engineer, Jean-Baptiste Baratte, is tasked with clearing the overflowing and putrid Les Innocents cemetery in Paris in 1786. It’s a novel that conjures the atmosphere of the world it is describing before you while also hinting at bigger themes and events beyond the page (the spectre of the soon to come Revolution hangs over everything).

12. How Music Got Free: What happens when an entire generation commits the same crime? – Stephen Witt (2015)

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An interesting look at four different true stories that encapsulated the reasons, actions and impacts of the death of physical format music and the rise of piracy in the late 90s. We follow an employee at a CD pressing plant who became the most significant leaker of new music, the file sharing collectives who raced to be the first and the best at getting pirated music out there, the creator of the MP3 whose engineering genius and commercial tenacity enabled the whole format transition and the record company executive who learned to adapt through this chaotic market. As an ex record store employee, this book was an interesting insight into a story I thought I knew but clearly didn’t.

13. The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld – Jamie Bartlett (2014)

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Another non-fiction book, this one looking at how the dark web enables anonymous trading, communication and collaboration across the globe. Reading in 2018 its sections on cryptocurrencies , trolling and 4chan already seem a little dated as these areas moved into the mainstream news after the Brexit and Trump votes.

14. Mountains of the Moon – IJ Kay (2012)

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This novel wasn’t one I enjoyed. It has it’s moments of tenderness and brilliant use of language as it follows a young lady through various stages of her tough life always narrated in her own voice. Through the sections following her as a child this stylistic technique allows for some gut wrenching moments as too late you realise the severity of the traumatic scenes being described but overall so much of the text is simply expendable.

15. The Careers Leader Handbook: How to create an outstanding careers programme for your school or college – Tristram Hooley & David Andrews (2018)

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Which I posted about here.

16. Disraeli or The Two Lives – Douglas Hurd & Edward Young (2014)

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An engrossing look at a politian who, in many ways, broke the mould of the time (his Jewish heritage, his less than salubrious or honest youth) and yet is held up today as a beacon of statemenship when, at his pomp, he was more respected for the sharpness of his Parliamentary take downs. I enjoyed learning about a period of history that I now want to delve further into.

17. The Making of the British Landscape – Nicholas Crane (2016)

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I finished the year with yet another history book but one that looks at past events through a different lens. By concentrating on the changes (both man made and natural) to the landscape and climate of Britain, Crane is able to present a history of these isles like no other I’ve read. The sheer amount of change the land has accured is staggering and tests your imagination as first you are taken back 1000s of years to before these isles became isles. The impact of hunting, of the initial attempts at agriculture and the medium term changes in climate all have their impact on the land. The mysterious landscaping of these peoples as they bury their dead, protect their lands and throw up the odd henge or two is decoded all thousands of years before The Romans and their frantic building schemes arrived. Onwards, the Black Death, enclosure and the Industrial revolution, all leave their indelible mark on the landscape. A brilliant book that left me bereft at all that has been lost in our landscape never to be reclaimed.

So, that was my 2018 reading journey. I’m midly impressed at myself for getting through 17 books and will hope to conquer a similar amount in 2019!

An important destinations distinction

In October 2018 the DfE published “Destinations Data: Good Practice guide for schools” which, as DfE guidance documents go, is a snappy publication that sets out how schools and Colleges should approach collecting destination information from their learners, the duties beholden on Local Authorities in this area, where this information is then published and how it can be used to adapt provision.

The important section that I wanted to highlight for this post was the definition of “Destinations data” vs “Destinations Measures” which I had never considered before and will now endeavour to adhere to use as a definition in future posts and discussions about destinations and would hope that other practitioners join me in sticking to.

  • What is Destinations data?

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  • What are Destinations Measures?

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This is important because, as the Gatsby benchmarks and the Careers Strategy gain momentum and Ofsted continue to inspect CEIAG provision in schools, positive destination data will become more of badge of honour to schools keen to show they are taking Careers work seriously. Differences could then arise between what a school claims is their Destination data and what is published by the DfE and then included in their performance tables as the school data may rely on leavers future intended destinations while the DfE data looks back at sustained destinations.

In fact this has already happened with UTCs who have long claimed extremely positive destination data has a significant benefit to their model of education only to recently have their claims undermined by the more robust and historically confirmed DfE Destination Measures. As the DfE Measures record

the number of students who have been in a sustained destination for six months in the year after finishing key stage 4 or 16- 18 study (from October to March, or any six consecutive months for apprenticeships). The headline accountability measure at both key stage 4 and 16-18 study is the proportion of students staying in education or employment for at least two terms

they will be a much better reflection of the actual destinations of learners.

It is important that schools do not solely use their own data to evaluate their CEIAG provision and are using Destination Measures as well as comparison between the two may also highlight useful factors (for example, if many learners where intending to secure apprenticeships but then did not or if learners from disadvantaged backgrounds were struggling to progress). It is also vital that Ofsted inspectors brief themselves on the historical trends in a school’s Destination Measures before an inspection which may show the steady progress in leavers securing more apprenticeships or other positive and sustained destinations which would reflect well on the school’s Careers work.

So, from this point on – Destinations data = a school’s intended or checked leaver destination figures. Destination Measures = the DfE published figures.

The importance of trust

Working with young people (and their parents, but more on that later) as a Careers Adviser/Leader often means assisting them as they traverse points of transition. Be it across key stages, subject changes, institution changes or into a whole new sectors of the labour market, CEIAG practitioners are often the face of the possibilities on offer in the preparation phase of a transition. For the young person this often mean moving from a place of comfort where the rules and expectations (and short cuts) are known and familiar and into a space with new rules, new people and new codes of expected behaviour.

This is where “trust” becomes a vital factor. If the CEIAG practitioner is valued by the young person as a “trusted” source then the preparation work can aid the transition from the initial considerations, research through to choices and decision to overcome the worry of uncertainty. That is why this graphic

is so applicable to CEIAG work with young people and one that I’ve thought about following a few recent CEIAG news events.

A number of recent surveys clearly reported just how much influence parents/guardians have over the career and transition decisions of young people despite their lack of current knowledge of educational pathways and up to date labour market information.

For CEIAG practitioners working in schools, the message here is that the practitioner should be positioning themselves as a “trusted” source to both parents and young people.

That requires time and work in building relationships. At the recent Education Select Committee, Ian Mearns reiterated his belief that Careers Advisers from outside schools were best placed to ensure impartiality when offering IAG to young people as the incentives to keep learners within organisations are simply too strong. To back himself, he referred to recent Careers & Enterprise data that shows that seems to indicate that schools with Sixth Forms offer weaker Careers provision to their learners. What this model of IAG finds more challenging to achieve than in-house Advisers though is the time and presence required to build relationships and so the “trust” needed to actually impact young people and parents/guardians decision-making.

We all know the worth of the Gatsby benchmarks but one of the most significant indicators of the impact a school’s CEIAG programme is the amount of trust the parents and pupils have in their Careers Leader.