Month: May 2019

The numbers in the Careers Hubs Benchmark 8 progress stats are pretty wild

Launched in September 2018 with 20 Hubs across the country (plus the orginal North East pilot area), the Careers & Enterprise Company is now expanding this policy with another 20 Hubs. When launched, I was positive about the structure of support they would be able to offer local areas and could see the rationale behind expanding the North East pilot but was concerned that the funding model those schools and colleges enjoyed was not also being replicated. The initial wave of hubs covers locales across the country:

  1. Black County – 36 schools and colleges
  2. Buck Careers Hub – 21
  3. Cornwall – 40
  4. Cumbria – 40
  5. Greater Manchester – number of schools & colleges involved not clear
  6. Heart of the south west – 40
  7. Humber – 26
  8. Lancashire – number not clear
  9. Leeds City Region – 35
  10. Leicester – 20
  11. Liverpool City Region – 34
  12. New Anglia – 32
  13. North East – 40 (plus 10 colleges?)
  14. Solent – 32
  15. South East – ?
  16. Stoke – 20
  17. Swindon – 40
  18. Tees Valley – 35
  19. West of England – 25
  20. Worcestershire – 40
  21. York – 35

The CEC says the total number of schools and colleges involved is 710.

As we reach the end of the first academic year of their existence, the CEC claims that schools and Colleges in those Hubs are progressing faster towards meeting the Gatsby benchmarks than schools and colleges not located in Hubs and large proportions of them are already meeting a number of the Benchmarks.

 

Which shows rapid improvement in the percentage of Hub schools & Colleges reporting that they are fully meeting Gatbsy benchmarks. Within those figures though a truly eye opening amount of work must be happening.

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Let’s take one benchmark in particular – Benchmark 8, Personal Guidance. The claim from the CEC is that 61% of Hub schools and colleges are reporting that they are fully meeting this Benchmark.

The School Guidance for this Benchmark is clear that to achieve it, every pupil should have a guidance interview with a Careers Adviser by the age of 16 and, if the school has a sixth Form, another if required by the age of 18.

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While in the Sixth Forms & Colleges Guidance the wording is slightly different to take into account that students can complete Entry, Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 study programmes at different ages up to 19 so the age of the student isn’t the limiting factor, just as long as the IAG interview occurs during the learners study programme.

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But the aim remains the same; every young person gets a 1:1 Careers meeting with a qualified professional.

Across the 710 schools and colleges in the Hubs it’s hard to find published the exact numbers of schools and the exact number of dedicated Post 16 providers (I’ve included the total number of providers for each Hub above where I could find it) but whatever those figures are, the CEC is now claiming that 61% of Hub providers are fully meeting Benchmark 8. This is extraordinary in itself but what I find even more remarkable is that 56% of those providers were reporting that they were already fully compliant with Benchmark 8 back in July 2018 before the Hub started. That is a very high level of provision in terms of pupil numbers.

Dfe data is that, on average, there are 948 pupils in a secondary school.

Across the 20 Hubs lets say, conservatively, 700 schools of the 710 participants are secondary schools that gives a total school pupil population of 663,600.

That leaves around 10 Sixth Forms or Colleges (in reality, it’s likely that these Post 16 providers take up a greater number) and these providers can vary tremendously in size. For example, Sunderland College has around 4,800 full time learners while Sixth Form Colleges have, on average 1,823 and School Sixth Forms even smaller at 202 students on average.

Sunderland College were part of the North East pilot Hub so I’ll include their learners but be conservative on the other participants and say the rest are smaller Sixth Form Colleges. That would result in a total of 21,207 Post 16 learners included in the Benchmark 8 figures in the pilot.

So the total number of students covered by the Hubs = 684,807 pupils (although this is likely to be larger)

If 61% of providers are now reporting fully meeting Benchmark 8 then that’s approx 423,832 young people in those 20 areas that have had a Careers interview. In July 2018, before the Hub started, 389,092 (56%) of young people were having a Careers interview. This is a huge amount of Careers and guidance provision occurring in those localities.

There should be huge lessons for those practitioners in the rest of the country to learn from these figures.

  1. What was the practice and structure already in place that allowed those 56% of those providers to already meet everyone of their students for a Careers interview? Considering that Hub areas were chosen specifically in response to the CEC’s own cold spots research which was meant to indicate a dearth of Careers provision,

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There should be learning opportunities here for the CEC as well as their Personal Guidance fund is another pot of money looking to support innovative practice in this area of CEIAG. Their publication in the “What works series: Personal Guidance” shows though that there are not many short cuts to providing provision in this area and how time and cost intensive Personal Guidance is by it’s very nature.

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In a 948 roll secondary school, a Year 11 cohort would equal around 190 pupils. Seeing 5 of those pupils a day for a Careers interview would take nearly 38 days or over 7.5 weeks so this is a significant staffing allocation and that is just one year group. As a practitioner in an FE College with around 3000 full time students attending, I am another Careers Leader looking for ways to offer a guidance service that meets all of the quality points above but is also flexible enough to maximize capacity.

Hopefully the CEC is learning from those providers in the Hub areas how, despite rating lowly on the Cold Spot metrics, over half of them were able to previously achieve Benchmark 8.

2. How does that level of provision compare to providers outside of Hub areas?

Other sources offer insights but not directly comparable data. The most recent DfE omnibus survey (surveying pupils in Year 8 to 11) reports 47% of (under 16) pupils say the experienced a face to face guidance session

face to face iag

while the 2019 Youth Employment Survey (3008 young people aged 14-24) reports that 67% of young people had an interview with a Careers Advisor.

face to face youth iag

The most recent CEC State of the Nation report shows that 48% of all schools and colleges completing Compass reported that they were fully meeting Benchmark 8 in their first submission but this figure has risen to 55.4% on second rating.

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So the Hub areas were already starting from a higher base than the rest of the country before the Hubs had even started.

3. Is this stable and should a new Benchmark 8 rating be submitted by the provider every year?

As Deirdre Hughes asks here for Benchmarks 5 & 6 but her question is equally applicable to Benchmark 8

 

 

Each academic year will bring new students for a school or college to work with and many things (loss of staff, internal restructures, expanding school roll) could result in a provider not maintaining their 100% compliance with Benchmark 8. Could the percentage of providers meeting Benchmark 8 in a Hub area fall as well as rise?

4. What changes have lead to the increase in capacity to be able to offer more or attain more take up of Careers interviews since the Hubs started?

Is it more schools and colleges dedicating more staffing towards this provision or something else?

It will be interesting to see how the new Hubs add to the lessons the CEC is learning over the next academic year and whether the rate of progress against Benchmarks continues particularly in areas which require high resource allocation.

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The CEC is heading into tricky strategic waters

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Since it’s inception I would hope that this blog has been viewed as being demanding but fair to the Careers and Enterprise company. While some of their early work seemed more suited to the corporate sphere rather than the transparent world of the public sector they have since been given an wider remit by the Government, weathered (what in my view) has been some grandstanding but empty criticism from Robert Halfon and expanded their offer to schools and colleges through Careers Hubs, online tools and other funding streams. With this context, my position is that the sector should welcome that the DfE is funding careers work and tasking the CEC with looking at a fuller variety of careers provision rather than just the original remit of facilitating employer encounters. The DfE Guidance for Schools and Colleges has done much to focus attention and add impetus and importance to the CEC in the minds of School and College Senior Leaders. This work should be continued and built upon further. My fear for the future though is that the CEC is having to stray into tricky political waters.

Targets

As an indicator of their increased transparency, the CEC now publishes it’s annual grant funding letter. This sets out the clear targets and expectations of the DfE for the CEC and indicates the funding allocated to each strand of work

The DfE has determined those targets to have value and some of the data points around training, allocation of funds and sharing of best practice seem sensible for system improvement but overall these outcomes are very technical and input based. Key performance indicators such as “55% of schools and colleges in the Wave 1 Careers Hubs fully achieving Gatsby Benchmark 6” or “70,000 young people reached in Wave 1 Opportunity Areas by August 2019” are admirable in their specificity and adherence to the Gatsby research but also bring a danger for the CEC as they are ultimately lacking in both political and public impact.

Since it’s inception the CEC has received over £95 million (with £24.3 million of that for 2019/20). The issue here is not in terms of figures (careers work needs funding) but when Ministers have to justify previous and future expenditure. The DfE will need to present outcomes for this flagship policy to both political audiences (at Education Select Committees and in Parliament) and to the pubic through achievements that, they hope, will resonate with voters at election times.

We have already seen the CEC struggle to articulate their progress and achievements at two Eduction Select Committee sessions where the questions focused on the need to prove outcomes for students while Claudia Harris and Christine Hodgson’s answers relied on data showing the input provision that had been enacted. In Parliament and in previous speeches by Ministers, there has been confusion over the aims of the CEC. This mismatch between expectation of delivery and what is achieved is what will prove to be tricky for the CEC to manage.

The need for a compelling message

In 2016 I attended a session at an Education and Employers research conference where two ex-DfE civil servants spoke about the need to distill research and outcomes down to the simplest, most concise summary possible so that Ministers can digest and cascade it. They did not quite advocate Trumpian levels of “put in as many pictures as possible” but their reasons as to why the “4 or more employer engagements” research broke through so successfully are worth the attention of the CEC when considering promoting their work to MPs and the public.

The narrative battle

However, the CEC is tasked with showing progress against those very technical key performance indicators in their grant funding letter. Previously they achieved this through annual State of the Nation reports but now have released data which has gone further by showing progress against the Gatsby Benchmarks broken down to Local Enterprise Partnership level. This shows a

contrasting picture across the country, with the top performing areas made up of largely coastal and economically disadvantaged communities, while the bottom is made up almost exclusively of affluent counties.

This (with the caveat of noting that Compass is self reported data) is a positive picture indicating a large swell of change in CEIAG provision levels for young people and work. Unfortunately this does not translate to the mantra of keeping your outcomes simple and easily understood. Compare that positive picture based on Gatsby Benchmarks and the accompanying TES article from Anne Milton with other policy and research data released in the very same week as the CEC LEP level data. First came the Impetus Youth Jobs Report which utilised the LEO dataset

In March 2017 (the latest date we can analyse using the data we have access to) 26% of disadvantaged young people were NEET, compared to 13% of their better-off peers. This is the equivalent of around 78,000 additional disadvantaged NEETs aged 18-24. Looking at the same data from the opposite end of the lens, 26% of NEETs were from disadvantaged backgrounds, despite being only 16% of the population

and that

A disadvantaged young person is about 50% more likely to be NEET in the North East compared to London

This was soon followed by the 2018-19 State of the Nation report from the Social Mobility Commission. The key findings are stark and easily summarised:

  • The better off are nearly 80% more likely to end up in professional jobs than those from a working-class background.
  • Even when people from disadvantaged backgrounds land a professional job, they earn 17% less than their privileged colleagues.
  • social mobility has remained virtually stagnant since 2014. Four years ago, 59% of those from professional backgrounds were in professional jobs, rising to 60% last year
  • in 2014 only 32% of those from working class backgrounds got professional jobs, rising marginally to 34% last year
  • those from working class backgrounds earn 24% less a year than those from professional backgrounds, even if they get a professional job they earn 17% less than more privileged peers
  • by age 6 there is a 14% gap in phonics attainment between children entitled to free school meals and those more advantaged
  • by age 7 the gap has widened to 18% in reading, 20% in writing and 18% in mathematics
  • only 16% of pupils on free school meals attain at least 2 A levels by age 19, compared to 39% of all other pupils
  • twice the number of disadvantaged 16 to 18 year olds are at further education colleges compared to sixth-forms, and this segregation within the education system has risen by 1.2% since 2013
  • student funding for 16 to 19 year olds has fallen 12% since 2011 to 2012, and is now 8% lower than for secondary schools (11 to 15 year olds), leading to cuts to the curriculum and student support services that harm disadvantaged students
  • graduates who were on free school meals earn 11.5% less than others 5 years after graduating

The accompanying coverage resonated through articles across the media (some examples here and here) and gave enough political leverage for it to be raised at PMQs.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that these two reports and the CEC publication are talking about the very same disadvantaged communities yet through very different lenses. Of course, the CEC is reviewing current trends in provision which may not have an impact on outcomes for pupils for many years while adhering to reporting against it’s key performance indicators. Translating those KPIs when explaining the positive outcomes of their work to audiences without a CEIAG specialism is a huge hurdle for the CEC as they have to:

  1. explain what the Benchmarks are
  2. explain why they are good to achieve
  3. show that they are helping schools and colleges achieve them
  4. then outline the impact on positive outcomes for students in those disadvantaged communities.

I fear this means that achieving positive traction with politicians and the public will be extremely difficult.

Politically tricky waters

The political future of the country is currently in a highly unpredictable place but the CEC must be conscious of the need to persuade future Governments (of any colour ribbon) of their value. Labour’s Education Policy of a National Education Service is outlined in broad strokes without clarity on the need or role of a CEC type organisation. But whichever party is in power to make decisions on funding, they will not make those decisions merely based on research and evidence but research, evidence and outcomes that has been successfully communicated. If the CEC continues to constrain themselves to only communicating the value of the work in line with their key performance indicators then they will soon find themselves outmaneuvered by those able to use other statistics and research to paint a much more negative picture of the current state of CEIAG provision in disadvantaged communities to undermine any positive progress made.