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

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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

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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.

 

 

 

Grofar

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Being online means, occasionally, companies and providers of services will get in touch to promote their Careers Education related products or ask for advice.

Last academic year I gave some time, alongside other Career Leaders and the CDI, to help the team at Grofar develop their Careers management platform. The Managing Director, James, visited me at my old school a number of times to test out new features and get feedback on how these would work in the practical day to day life of a school. I saw this week that the team at Grofar have been shortlisted for a CDI Career Development Award in the “Best Practice in the Use of Technology in Career Development” category. This is a deserved accolade as I saw how many iterations of the software the team worked through to shape the features of the final product to be as responsive as Careers Leaders in schools need it to be.

Grofar is a complete careers program management product. It is a database and recording tool, a planning and mapping tool, a central hub for all of the desk based stuff a Careers Leader in a school or college would do.

It allows you to plan your academic year of career events and provision, add to it as things pop up throughout the year, see where the gaps in your provision for each year group or subject area lie so to improve on for next year and then have your plan ready to show senior leaders or Ofsted at the touch of a button.

It allows you to integrate student data from CSV files or SIMS, track interventions for each student and send out meeting reminders through student emails. Destinations of leavers can be tracked and reports generated. Alumni records can be kept to use as a resource in future.

It can also help with the organisation and paperwork trail needed to secure properly vetted work experience placements if the school runs such a scheme.

In short, it offers to replace those folders of excel workbooks neatly saved on your school or college shared drive and post it notes stuck all over your monitor and school planner with a joined up record keeping and planning platform.

This isn’t free though and comes with a cost that Grofar do not want to make easily findable on their Pricing page. (I only vaguely remember what James said they would be aiming for).

To my mind, it’s frankly amazing that there are still companies out there willing to commit time and funds to developing careers products for an education system that is running on financial empty. Combine that with the wide range of free resources that can be found with a bit of research, then each sale must feel like pushing a boulder over a mountain. If you’re at a school that does purchase an annual licence for computer software or regularly buys physical products such as magazines or books, do let me know in the comments below as it’s good to hear the reasons why this is helping your practice and students in your setting.

A number of suppliers offering Careers products to schools still exist, Cascaid probably being the most well known who offer a range of both physical and computer products. But U-Explore, Trotman & Prospects Educational Resources also offer a number of physical & computer products.

All of these firms and more will be offering their wares at the National Career Guidance Roadshows coming up through February & March 2017 for you to go along and compare their products. For how long, there remains a market with funding able to allocate to such products, remains to be seen.

(This blog is not a sales pitch, I’ve included the links to Grofar so you can see for yourself the capabilities and layout of their product. You know your school budgets and priorities so, as a practitioner, you can make your own mind up where to allocate your resources.)

 

The blame game

In a speech earlier this week (note; speech, not the publication of the actual delayed careers strategy) the Skills Minister, Robert Halfon outlined his intentions for CEIAG under his watch.

The venue the Minister decided to use for this speech about careers advice, the parity of vocational routes and the importance of Apprenticeships was Westminster Academy because,

It is worth noting though that the school, while achieving some outstanding Progress 8 scores in it’s 2016 academic results, failed to get any students to progress into Apprenticeships at 16 in 2014 (the most recent destination data available) and the % of pupils staying in education, employment and training was below both the Local Authority and National averages.

westminster-academy-dest

The Minister outlined his vision of an all age Careers offer, said that the long promised careers strategy would come later in 2017 and that CEIAG formed an important part of the recently published Industrial Strategy. He also, as a representative of a Government that has been in power at least in Coalition for 6 years, blamed Headteachers for the poor state of CEIAG provision in schools.

He questioned the variability between organisations, stating: “I do not believe it is just a question of funding, but how a school chooses to spend its funding.

“Schools that deliver high quality careers advice do not do so because they have a greater share of the pot, but because they see it as a vitally important future part for their pupils.”

which is a position which does have an element of truth. Headteachers are budget holders who do have freedom to spend on priorities. What provision can count as a ‘priority’ though needs to be placed within the context of the overall budget envelope.

So here is that context:

The £200m annual funding and wider structure to support careers work in schools was cut and the responsibility without the funding for provision was moved onto schools.

The expected levels of provision that schools should be offering from current budgets would cost around £186m with £181m of that to be found annually. The £90m promised for Careers (mainly the Careers & Enterprise Company) across the 5 years of this parliament, pales in comparison.

Yet current school budgets are under huge pressure. The stories from individual Headteacher’s about crumbling, unfit for purpose buildings and cutting not only support but even teaching staff are tough to read.

Surveys of teachers report that 80% say their school has made cutbacks or is planning to.

These anecdotal reports are bad enough but it is the overall figures that I find staggering.

In December, the National Audit Office concluded that schools will need to find £3bn of savings by 2020 which will equate to an 8% real terms funding cut or a loss of over £400,000 to the average secondary school.

And this will be on top of a period of 6 years of previous cuts during which schools have already been reducing their spending on teaching staff.

nao-figure-4

Budget holders are clear, all that can be cut has been and now staffing is on the chopping block.

If budgets are so squeezed that numbers of teaching staff are being reduced when pupils numbers are not falling then, when the Minister complains that Heads are choosing not to spend their funding on CEIAG provision, he is failing to acknowledge the reality in schools.

It was even telling that, on the same day as a speech including a vision for all age careers support, consultations were published proposing the closure of 78 Jobcentres across the country.

In this climate, the pleas from Unison that any universal careers service is

  • is properly resourced with a stable funding system;

seem from another age entirely.

Taking Headteachers to task for not spending their budgets on CEIAG provision when they are cutting such fundamentals as teaching staff and building maintenance seems a tad delusional.

 

 

How companies can help with social mobility

Themes rise and fall in education news land. Recently the topic of social mobility has risen to the top of the education news wave leaving stories of shrinking school budgets, degree grade inflation and the lack of support for pupils mental well-being sinking to the bottom.

Ahead of the curve was the Sutton Trust who released a report co-authored with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility entitled “The class ceiling: Increasing access to the leading professions” which laid bare (again, after previous work from the Social Mobility Commission) the static nature of social mobility in the UK. We are a nation where the privilege and wealth of your parents directly dictates the privilege and wealth you will enjoy.

Much of the subsequent press follow up concerned itself with the recruitment practices of employers that favour young people from well off backgrounds such as unpaid internships while the report took a bigger picture view of the wider education & employment system.

CEIAG and recent careers policy got lots of attention with a careful eye laid on the progress of the Careers & Enterprise Company

and plenty of stakeholder opinion on the quality of careers advice in schools. Much of the state of careers commentary is echoes of all that has gone before so it was the sections which looked at what steps business could take to change the situation which I found interesting.

  1. The use of Contextualized recruitment by firms such as Deloitte places an applicant’s academic achievement in the context of the institution and wider community in which they achieved this.
  2. The move away from traditional academic routes into the professions and toward new, work based schemes even in professional areas such as Law. CILex the example given.
  3. Open competition for young people to apply to work experience placements so not to insulate benefits seen by friends and families of employees. I’ve linked on this blog before on the general lack of work experience opportunities offered by business.
  4. To be involved in Mentoring programmes, which will give much power to the Careers & Enterprise Company’s new scheme.
  5. Local targeting of deprived areas and schools with the work of the companies on the Government’s Social Mobility Compact (no, I’d never heard of it either) praised for their work with (mostly) London schools
  6. Unconscious bias training to aid impartiality in recruitment although the example of practice given in the report is from the Civil Service so, as it’s not private sector, I don’t really think it should count here.
  7. The collection and publication of data on the socio-economic backgrounds of employees with the data collected by the Solicitors Regulation Authority given as an example.

These are all praiseworthy and socially responsible efforts by the private sector to, in small ways, stick an oar of movement into the static pool of social mobility in the UK.

Reading this report coincided for me in the same week as seeing a presentation on an EY summer work experience summer scheme called “Smart Futures.” A paid work experience scheme for Year 12 students, this is a fantastic opportunity that would excite many young people. EY though, are aiming the programme at pupils who have been

Eligible for free school meals at some point in the past six years

which is an altruistic and well intentioned clause but, as many of the other schemes and ideas mentioned above also do, it fails to take into account a hard reality of the educational progress and attainment of disadvantaged students by the time they reach this age.

In 15/16 43% of disadvantaged pupils gained A-C’s in GCSE English & Maths compared to 70% of all other pupils while 37% of disadvantaged pupils achieved 5 A-C’s compared to 65% of all other pupils.

At Key Stage 2, 39% of disadvantaged pupils reach the expected standard in reading, writing and maths while 60% of other pupils do.

In fact, disadvantaged pupils are already 8 months of learning behind their peers when they start school.

To tackle this, companies that truly wish to make an impact on social mobility should step away from their own comfort zones and deal with very young people and families in settings perhaps they have not so far ventured into. The Smart Futures programme is delivered through EY’s charitable arm The EY Foundation. It would require strong leadership but, ultimately, a bigger structural impact on their investment would be found from, for example, offering small scale, localised provisions to fill the gaps that the closures to large numbers of Sure Start and children’s centres is leaving.

 

“I’ve never had a job…”

 

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Today’s Guardian has a quick interview with British Gold medal winning cyclist Laura Kenny ( nee Trott).

This is an athlete who has reached the peak of her sport and won numerous titles. Who dedicates her life to achieving levels of fitness and performance beyond the reach of many of us.A life of travel and competition.

Her food intake is carefully monitored. Her training regime intense.

OH:How many hours are you on the bike for?

LT: It could be anything from three hours in the morning to gym in the afternoon, or three hours in the morning and four or five efforts in the afternoon – not like two hours on the track solid.

so intense that she would regularly be violently sick after particularly gruelling sessions. All hours, all weathers.

But check out her answer to one of the questions

trott-interview

Find what you love. Do what you love.

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A change…

This blog has a change of title as I have moved to a new position with a new employer. In time, the focus of posts here will also concentrate and reflect more on Careers IAG in the FE and, perhaps even, HE sector. School level work will no doubt still get a look in as I will remain interested in the Careers climate in that sector as well.

I’ve also had a change of twitter handle to:

https://twitter.com/FECareersIAG

so, if you know of any FE Careers practitioners, please link them onto the site and I hope they get in touch!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a great start to 2017!

Russell