Careers Entreprise Company

Primary CEIAG and the preparation for choice

At the beginning of March Damian Hinds reannounced £2m of funding for the CEC to research and invest in CEIAG in Primary schools. This sparked a comment piece by the Headteacher blogger Michael Tidd which argued against this initiative. It’s worth saying that Tidd’s concerns seem to fall into two categories: 1) resources are tight and the funding for this initiative is small so any impact will be slight and 2) Careers Education is not a priority at this stage of education. Leaving aside the zero sum game view on resourcing (just because Primary CEIAG receives some funds, it doesn’t automatically follow that other areas shouldn’t or can’t receive funds), it’s his view on CEIAG that this post will concentrate on.

Tidd asks,

what are we hoping that 10-year-olds will take from these new lessons? I think many primary children have no idea what they want to do when they grow up – and I think that’s okay. Primary education shouldn’t be about preparation for the world of work.

And then goes onto reason that

The world of careers is enormous, and there should be no hurry to make any decisions. It’s bad enough that we force young people to deliberately narrow their curriculum at 14; I certainly don’t want children to be ruling anything in or out any sooner

I understand that any media articles have tight word counts so complexity and subtlety can be lost but I’ll take Tidd at his word and offer the following in rebuttal. The first point is the fact that Primary schools report that they are already offering CEIAG provision to pupils

primary ceiag

through a range of activities. So this funding is not for squeezing new things into crammed timetables but for improving the efficacy of provision that is already happening.

Second, is the need to tackle this conceptual view of Primary (or any) CEIAG as only a mechanism of immediate choice as this is a damaging and false starting point of the aims and outcomes of good CEIAG provision. That isn’t to say that some CEIAG provision does enable and facilitate choices but that other provision lays the groundwork for this. This has long been advocated by the Education & Employers Taskforce charity who established their Inspiring the Future offshoot, Primary Futures to achieve just this

Here the framing of the provision is not choice limiting or insistent on choices being made but as provision as a method for expanding and broadening horizons. The CEC publication, “What works: Careers related learning in primary schools” draws together much of the nascent research in this field to evidence why this is the correct approach.

The evidence suggests that career related learning in primary schools has the potential to help broaden children’s horizons and aspirations, especially (though not exclusively) those most disadvantaged.

Some of the challenges that all CEIAG provision aims to overcome is laid out

Robust longitudinal studies have shown that having narrow occupational expectations and aspirations can, and do, go on to influence the academic effort children exert in certain lessons, the subjects they choose to study, and the jobs they end up pursuing.Research has also shown that the jobs children aspire to may be ones that their parents do, their parents’ friends do or that they see on the TV and/or social media.

The passages (page 2) which describe how young children base their career knowledge and aspirations on their close circle of influencers (social capital), conceive their view on their place and opportunities in society (cultural capital) and establish their belief in their ability to determine their own outcomes against other factors (identity capital) lucidly offer the rationale for careers provision at Primary school age. The argument that Primary CEIAG is not beneficial because young minds would subsequently preclude routes falls away as the very rationale for informed Primary CEIAG provision is for young minds to expand routes and options.

How these aims can be achieved is explained in detail in a recent LKMCO/Founders4Schools report “More than a job’s worth: Making careers education age-appropriate.” In its sections covering the rationale and design of CEIAG provision at secondary and Post-16 level, the report retreads much ground already covered through the CEC’s What Works series and the original Gatsby report. Where the report adds value to the ever-increasing library of CEIAG publications though is the clear direction for practitioners as to what sorts of provision could be offered to children of different ages.

lmkco report1

The inclusion of the 2-4 Pre-school age group caused enough of a stir to get media coverage which also tended towards Tidd’s take on the concepts being discussed.

Finally, it’s worth saying that I agree with concern around the narrowing of options (read; curriculum) at 14 as the benefits of continuing with more a broader curriculum for longer is well evidenced. Where I would disagree with Tidd is that I would propose that the methods and age appropriate delivery of CEIAG provision the LKMCO publication outlines might actually prove to have benefits for students once they reach the later stages of secondary schooling. At these Moments of Choice (to use the CEC terminology), when students currently struggle through a complex choice system without the skills and knowledge to navigate that choice architecture, the pay off from the horizon broadening and stereotype challenging Primary CEIAG work he disparages could be evident.

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CEIAG in Post 16 providers – a survey

Over the years of writing this blog the annual omnibus survey from the DfE has always offered a useful insight into the reality of the scale of CEIAG provision across the country. Up until now I did not realise that they also undertake a Post 16 version of the survey, the most recent release of which includes plenty of interesting information about the scale and types of provision on offer by providers.

fe omnibus survey

The first point to make about the results is that respondents do appear to come from the wide variety of providers across the FE landscape (Table A1: 421 responses) but overall it’s heartening to see just how widespread the range of CEIAG work is across the Post 16 stage.

fe omnibus survey 1

The rise in employer encounters since 2017 was noted by the CEC looking for signs of impact of their work.

The figures that provide the most surprise to me though come from the split into type of provision by type of institution

fe omnibus survey 2

My assumption would be that FE Colleges would be offering more employer encounters for students than Sixth Forms attached to schools. Employer engagement is a central tenet of the mission of FE providers and the qualifications they offer. In my experience at least, the range and scale of employer engagement is much more frequent and in-depth then what you would expect in a school with a small sixth form but that seems to not to be the case here. The other interesting data point is the scale of difference between the students at different providers participating in University visits but this comes with a word of warning. There is some confusion across the document in the way this question is worded; fig 10.1 phrases it “All students considering university have had at least two visits to universities” while 10.2 uses “University applicants have had at least two visits to universities.” These differences appear subtle but for an FE College who will have a significant proportion of their student population studying qualifications at Level 2 and below, the wording of this question could elicit significantly different results from respondents.

Elsewhere in the survey, it is heartening to see CEIAG provisions taking center stage in respondents thinking when detailing their “activities to encourage students to have high aspirations or to help them achieve their potential.”

fe omnibus survey 3

Careers Teams in Sixth Forms, FE Colleges, UTCs & Studio Schools would be involved in the organisation or delivery of all of those types of provision in some way. Leaving aside the continual misappropriation of disadvantaged young people having “low aspirations,” when research shows that they have high aspirations but lack the tools and social and cultural capital to enact those aspirations (pdf), this data shows Post 16 Careers Leaders how to best frame their offer to explain value to Senior Leaders. The potential areas to offer provision in that would gain benefit can be found in the responses to the next question, “Barriers faced be post-16 institutions in raising aspiration within the student population.”

fe omnibus survey 4

Many of which are structural barriers (e.g. cost of continuing education, socio-economic) but also barriers which Careers Teams can help tackle with clear messaging. For example, with the use of Martin Lewis’ campaign materials to tackle some of the myths around Higher Education tuition fees to assuage student fears over the impact of these costs and offering to play a central role in parental engagement events and activities.

Wide scale tracking of CEIAG provision is valuable to note the impacts that policy or changes in accountability focus can ripple through the system. These annual surveys from the DfE are an important data point to achieve this. Another survey that may interest you or benefit from your involvement is the CEC survey of Careers Leaders in schools which will hopefully report interesting data on the workforce change that the Careers Strategy and DfE Careers Guidance for schools has influenced so get your response sent if this is applicable to you. A similar survey for FE Careers Leaders is planned for later this year.

 

The Destinations data still isn’t there for the Gatsby pilot

It has now been three and half academic years since the North East Gatsby pilot kicked off with the aim of implementing the Gatsby career benchmarks in a range of education providers. The Pilot was funded by the Foundation to the tune of £9,000 per school or college plus the central support offered by an appointed Pilot Lead.

Any impacts and lessons of the pilot should be key indicators for both the CEC and the DfE as they monitor the value of the Gatsby benchmarks in improving CEIAG provision. The fact that the Pilot is already being replicated (with lower funding levels) across the country as the CEC rolls out its Careers Hubs programme should only reinforce this need.

To learn these lessons, iCEGS have been commissioned to conduct an evaluation of the pilot which aims to

document a systematic attempt by education providers to implement all eight Benchmarks and establish what impacts might result from the implementation of the Benchmarks.

and, last month, an interim report was published giving an update on the findings of the evaluation.

The interim report finds that the schools and colleges involved in the Pilot self-reported that they did expand or improve their CEIAG provision according to the Benchmarks

icegs report1

This finding is not itself cross referenced against any external accountability of the schools or colleges CEIAG provision such as Ofsted reports. On a positive note though, the report does show that improvement (again, with the self-reported caveat) is possible across all types of education establishment. It seems that the clarification of CEIAG offered by the Benchmarks and the categorisation of the success criteria can be molded to work across the variety of providers in the English education system which is a major positive for policy makers looking for whole sector improvement strategies.

The report also finds that students across the providers responded with “significantly higher career readiness scores” which is an important variable to measure but, of the potential impacts, not the one that would hold the most sway with policy makers I would imagine. For this to be the case, further work would need to be done here to show a link with higher career readiness scores to actual employment and earning outcomes for young people much like the, now very well-known, employer engagement research from the Education & Employers taskforce.

The report also notes that, during the Pilot evaluation period, the schools involved reported an increase in the number of A-C GCSE grades but that it is not possible to draw any conclusions from this as there is no historical data to judge trends and no causation ties to be found to the Gatsby pilot. The success rates of FE College learners is not mentioned nor is any impact on attendance statistics of pupils in the area.

The interim report then praises the role of the Pilot area facilitator in

Creating a community of shared knowledge, networks and practice

which is clearly a benefit that a supported Pilot scheme could enact but one that would cause many professionals working in Local Authority skills development to wonder how that is different from their work which, in my experience at least, usually includes a termly forum where school and college leaders or careers leaders can meet.

Lessons

Perhaps the part of the report most useful for other Hub Leads and Careers Leaders is the Emergent Challenges section (page 14). The fact that FE Colleges will struggle with Benchmark 8 (Personal Guidance) won’t be news to any practitioner grappling with the requirements to offer this highly individual service within current funding envelopes but the issue of tracking provision against the Benchmarks is one which I think the CEC do need to be on top of. Their Tracker tool has the basis to offer much support in this area but the wide range of approaches in how providers input activities will soon cause reporting problems for them. I’ve seen examples of a school inputting every Careers lunchtime drop in session they run, meaning huge numbers of repetitive provisions being added which boost the total number of activities in a Benchmark.

Destinations

This then leaves the elephant in the room. The destinations data of the actual students participating in all of this provision is not mentioned in this interim report but this is due to the timescales involved and it will be referenced in the final report. Many of the pupils attending those providers during the pilot time will not have left those providers yet and, for those that have, only one years worth of data (2017) has been published by the DfE. I blogged about that 2017 data here and the lack of (positive) impact perceivable in those positive destination indicators so it will be interesting to see what the final report concludes with a researcher’s eye looking at a more complete data picture.

Conclusion

At the moment the Pilot evidence shows that providers are reporting that their provision has grown and their institutional behaviours changed because of the Gatbsy Benchmarks and that pupils are more confident about their career readiness. These are small rewards for the sheer scale of system change that has occurred with the formation of the CEC and its subsequent policies (including Hubs, Careers Leaders and employer encounters). The evidence for actual outcomes for students is still lacking. What this is proving though to policy makers is that system change in education is possible (without much funding) if the provision aims are formalised and grouped into ‘benchmark’ style targets. It seems that schools and colleges, despite their protestations to the contrary, do like to be measured on some of the things they do.

 

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.

The Careers Leader Handbook review

clhcover2

Whenever something new in education begins, be it a new policy or teaching approach, there is always the risk that soon enough will come bandwagon jumping books, resources and expert training gurus all preaching the gospel of the new.

Now that the requirement for all schools and colleges to have a named member of staff as a Careers Leader is in place, there has been training advertised, resources up for grabs and now a shiny new publication, “The Careers Leader Handbook: How to create an outstanding careers programme for your school or college” is just a click away from your Amazon basket.

The Handbook though comes with pedigree as Tristram Hooley and David Andrews (who I’m sure many readers of this blog will have met, been trained by or learnt a lot from at conferences along their professional CEIAG journey) both have a huge background and experience in CEIAG theory, policy and practice so readers should know that they are in good hands.

The experience and depth of policy knowledge of the pair is apparent throughout the book. Each section is enriched by the concise explanations of the wider context of why the suggested model or practice should be attempted and the focus on the positive outcomes for young people that could be achieved. The research and evidence background supporting provision is covered but always in a way that distills down the main points so readers come away with practical applications to work with young people.

Sections

The Handbook is split into sections with Section 2 devoted to each of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks, Section 3 looking at the role of a Careers Leader and Section 4 discussing the need for continuous improvement and learning in the future.

Looking at each Benchmark individually may seem like an obvious structure but it really does lend itself to concisely offering examples of provision that fits and understanding how all that provision can link together. The “Nutshell” recaps at the end of each chapter bullet point the key strands within the chapter and mean that you take away the clear messages.

The use of invented case studies also has benefits as most readers would see reflections of their own establishments via the stories of Dunchester Progress Academy & Vanchester College.

The grounded experience of the writers in real schools is apparent in the realistic examples of offering Careers through PHSE or drop down days on page 67. The accurate representation of how schools and colleges actually run continues in Section 3: The role of the Careers Leader (page 131) when describing the different models of staffing CEIAG in schools. Without rehashing the debate on the flexibility of the defined job of a Careers Leader, the detail on the expectations and responsibilities associated with the role would leave any reader in no doubt regarding the seniority required to properly fulfill the remit.

Elsewhere Chapters 2.7 Experiences of HE, FE and work based training & 2.8 Personal Guidance are excellent on not just on the aims of those aspects of CEIAG but also on the challenges and barriers to overcome to build quality provision in these areas. The Chapters tackle head-on the, sometimes difficult, conversations Careers Leaders need to have with colleagues and superiors to ensure that impartial and timely provision for pupils is in place.

Criticisms

Any worthwhile review provides a bit of balance. To do that for the Careers Leader Handbook I’m going to have to include some extremely pedantry things such as the misspelling of Janet Colledge’s (@careersdefender) surname on page 177 and the reference to the College version of the DfE Careers Guidance being “Statutory” on page 23 (it’s not, it’s DfE guidance overseen by Ofsted with the threat to remove ESFA funding if non compliance is discovered so it’s power is not derived from the Statute book as the list of Statutory duties for schools is).

I personally wouldn’t have included Grammar school examples of CEIAG programmes as best practice (page 26) for the same reasons as I criticised the CEC for including them in their publications but The Careers Leader Handbook does have a different remit and it is good to show that great CEIAG can be built in any type of school.

A more obvious issue is the uneasy relationship the book has with funding throughout. The need for money to be available to fund all of the suggested provision is not treated as a unmentionable elephant in the room, far from it, the scale of what Careers Leaders should be asking for from their Headteachers is spelled out clearly particularly in the chapters discussing personal guidance and Section 3 includes a whole passages on budgeting and resourcing. A strategic aim of the book seems to be to empower Careers Leaders to demand more from their Senior Leaders and budget holders and this is to be applauded but readers will still read some passages with a wry smile. On page 152 the line “A budget begins as a prediction of what is likely to happen over a particular period” would spark a hollow laugh from those Headteachers setting deficit budgets across the country. The treatment of evaluation also has a slightly less than real world tone to it. Even the pitiful amount of public money that school CEIAG departments are given still comes with the responsibility to report on the impact of that funding. So the advice to Careers Leaders when evaluating to

don’t ask: Does our programme have an impact? Do ask: Does providing students with labour market information result in them having broader ideas about possible careers?”

is not couched in the necessity of a Headteacher proritising funding. They need to know what has impact on their learners to decide which provision to direct their funds towards instead all of the other provision they could choose to fund. It seems that how a researcher would approach evaluation of provision and how practitioner must are two different strategies. Overall, the uneasy feeling comes from the assumption that this funding will be given. I understand that this is almost an implicit necessity (you could hardly have a “Section 5: What to do if your school doesn’t have a pot to pee in” then followed by 15 blank pages and a shrug gif) but it still leads to some slightly eyebrow raising moments.

Is it worth my (school’s) cash?

Of course, because it’s extremely interesting, knowledgeable and well written. Anyone currently offering CEIAG provision in schools or a sole trading Careers Adviser looking to work in schools should read it. FE and HE Careers practitioners should read it to understand just how far CEIAG policy and practice have come in the last few years. Policy makers looking at just what they are requiring of schools should read it. It complements and brings greater depth to the free resources which are linked to on page 127 from the CEC and has much potential for dipping back into to remind any Careers Leader of the purpose and possibility their work. This is not a resource to read and file away on undusted office shelf, this book should be a core component of any Career Leaders office desk ready to grab and consult throughout the journey in building your CEIAG programme.

The potential split between College and School Careers Leaders

September will see a change for schools and they “appoint” a Careers Leader as mandated by the Careers Strategy and the Guidance  documents for Schools and Colleges. What structures or staffing models schools will adopt (or just rename) to meet this will vary widely both because the guidance allows them to

careers leaders4

and because the funding squeeze will dictate that they will utilise the staff at their disposal.

For Colleges the guidance is tighter in the recommended structures to follow

careers leaders5

The specificity of requiring a Vice Principal or Director to take on the role does make sense in a College context. They are usually larger organisations both in terms of learners requiring provision and members of staff to work with and sites to cover so most providers will employ a team with a Careers/Employability focus line-managed through their Student Services areas. Combined with the more vocational nature of the teaching & qualification offer (teachers will have their own industry expertise to also offer IAG as part of the main qualification) placing the role at a strategic level puts the onus on the institution to achieve the cross College buy-in sought by the CEC to build a joined up Careers programme rather than a standalone service that does not collaborate throughout the teaching areas. At this scale, this isn’t a one person job so the delivery and the leadership have to be split.

The more options available in the School guidance will lead to many non teaching, non Senior Leaders being assigned the “Careers Leader” or a version of option 1 in the image above. If these roles are rebadged Careers Co-ordinator or Careers Adviser position line-managed by a member of Senior Leadership or the Head Teacher then in these cases the Careers Leader is “Leader” in name only. The strategic oversight and direction of the Careers provision at the school will be lead by the member of staff on the Senior Leadership team line managing the practitioner doing the delivery. It is they who will feed into working groups across the school (curriculum, data, behaviour etc) as they will have more areas of responsibility and line-management duties for the delivery staff in those areas.

The guidance document acknowledges the possible downsides from this option

if senior leadership support is not in place, middle Careers Leaders can struggle to drive school-level change and successfully fulfill the coordination tasks which are part of the role.

and offers two case studies, one of which explains the link from the delivery practitioner to Senior Leadership

Cathy is not a trained teacher and whilst not formally designated as a middle leader, is effectively treated as one. For example, her line manager is the deputy head with whom she meets regularly.

and one that doesn’t

Leyla was responsible for all aspects of careers across the school, including contracts with external careers providers. The post was organised as a middle leader position and Leyla combined her role as Careers Leader with responsibilities for the business department and vocational education.

without explaining the conundrum of proposing the Leader as a “Senior” role whilst then offering examples of structures where it isn’t.

Allowing schools to farm off the “Careers Leader” job title onto staff not at a Senior enough level to inject and sustain a culture change throughout the school is not the hoped for consequence of implementing the Career Leaders policy. Before the Careers Strategy and CEC even existed, some schools had already reacted to the loss of Connexions by employing a non teaching member of staff to deliver their Careers provision. The lever the CEC is trying to pull through the establishment of the Careers Leader role and the accompanying guidance is to place CEIAG further up the food chain and closer to the heart of school decision-making and planning.

Careers Leaders are responsible and accountable for the delivery of their school’s programme of career advice and guidance. It is a senior role that requires the person doing it to have a clear overview of the school’s careers provision

This is what schools choosing Option 2 will  be attempting to achieve but will certainly have to invest in delivery practitioners for their Careers provision to match their ambition whilst also refraining from allocating the title to a Senior Leader with a multitude of other strands to manage. The possible pitfalls of this Option are under-funding and under-staffing.

Multi-Academy Trusts choosing to implement Option 3 would also have to invest in delivery staff to offer provision across sites but should have their own Careers Team line-management structure.

Schools choosing the Option 1 structure will therefore deviate from Colleges and other schools in that they will be attempting to combine the roles of strategy and delivery into one role (that may or may not have Senior Leader support). Those named Leaders in a combined strategy/delivery role without Senior Leader support will find the job the hardest of all while those in a delivery role reporting to a member of SLT are the Leaders in name only described above. The separation of strategy and delivery roles encourages a team model and so is able to push the responsibility of CEIAG higher up the school staffing structure and so closer to the core strategy decisions.

In a previous post on this subject I’ve agreed with the CDI that the naming of a Careers Leader is not something to become too hung up on as

It matters less whether the tasks are undertaken by one member of staff or several, or whether the post is filled by a member of the teaching or non-teaching staff, and more that all the tasks are clearly assigned and that the personnel allocated the role(s) are enabled and supported to fulfil their responsibilities effectively

which still holds true as ultimately it is the outcomes for students which should determine the success of structures. What I am clearer on now though is that there are potential dangers in using a title that means different things in different providers and for financially hard pressed schools, the lure of changing a job title without reflecting on the purpose or remit of that role.

College guidance

https://www.careersandenterprise.co.uk/sites/default/files/uploaded/careers_leaders_in_colleges.pdf

School guidance

https://www.careersandenterprise.co.uk/sites/default/files/uploaded/understanding-careers-leader-role-careers-enterprise.pdf

 

 

 

The CEC in front of the Education Select Committee May 2018 – not the one sided thrashing you were led to believe

Link to the Education Select Committee Video here:

https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/90b1eb8a-1eca-40c2-8916-0956c5cce7a0

So far in its existence (at least to those of us in the Careers community that don’t work for it) it seemed that the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) was the golden child, arrived here to save careers work for young people in England. Central funding wise, they essentially are the only show in town as they scale up their pilot work and their communications, PR and branding have been a fresh breeze of modern professionalism in a sector that (if I may) has always been behind the curve in shaping its own public perception. This period of cosy positivity ended though with a bruising session for the CEC in front of Robert Halfon and his Education Select Committee. The trade press reported the session in typical combative framing and the CEC did itself no favourites with a poorly judged call for social media support afterwards.

The Select Committee (well the 7 present of the 11 members) seemed aghast at a number of areas of the CEC’s work and track-record

  • that the CEC had spent £900,000 on research publications which were monies that had not been spent on the front line
  • that the CEC was not yet able to report on the destinations impact of the provision that their work had funded
  • that their board meeting minutes were not made public
  • that the long mooted Enterprise Passport had been put “on hold” despite it being one of the three main strands of the CEC’s original remit
  • that funding pots supposedly dedicated to providing provision for disadvantaged areas were not being totally allocated to those areas
  • paying Enterprise Co-ordinators and other central, senior roles significant salaries above comparable school based roles

Some of these criticisms hold an element of truth but what was also apparent from the session was (yet again) just how woefully ignorant of the Careers landscape (and by extension the work of the CEC) the MPs were.

Of course, it is only fair for MP’s to ask for the upmost transparency and compliance when investigating the value gained for the spending for tax payers money and beginning to focus on the actual impact (rather than merely the quantity) of provision would have been something you might have read about on this blog back in July 2017. Funding from Government comes with strings attached, it must be accounted for so taking the CEC to task for not being clear on the destination data of the pupils receiving CEIAG provision funded by the CEC is to be expected. What was not expected was just how difficult it was for the MPs to grasp that this destination data was;

a) only part of the impact feedback with evaluations and further social mobility measures, employer feedback, skill shortage data etc also to be taken into account

b) not going to be ready yet as many of the young recipients of CEC funded provision were probably still in school at this moment – Mr Halfon seemed unable to comprehend this fairly simple point

and

c) extremely difficult to collect and place comparative value on as the inputs (the type of CEIAG provision) are varied and delivered by a multitude of different providers funded by the CEC

It was also astonishing to see Emma Hardy, the MP for Hull West, at one moment criticize the CEC for not publishing pupil level destination data to show the impact of their work only then to also harangue them for not funding grassroots organisations such as National Careers Week who also do not publish or collect pupil level destination data. NCW are a fine organisation but they are not providers of provision, they are a banner organisation whose launch events and social media exposure allow others to brand their own work. Their own reporting reflects this with the number of tweets and resource downloads indicating a successful impact rather than the actual outcomes of young people. Moments such as this highlight a complete lack of mastery of the Select Committee brief from some of the Members and this was only to continue throughout the session.

Trudy Harrison was the most clueless of the bunch, at times advocating that the CEC should only be judged on the hugely reductive measure of rising or falling youth unemployment in an area in which they are funding provision and showing her utter unpreparedness for the session by repeatedly asking what a “Cold Spot” was. In the end I admired Claudia Harris’ restraint as the Member for Copeland asked for definitions, clarifications and to be sent information that was published on the CEC website back in October 2015 and forms a fundamental basis for all of the subsequent work of the organisation.

(I also enjoyed Lucy Powell noting that the advertised circa £80k CEC Director of Education role is “more than we get paid” considering that an MP’s current salary is very close at £77,379 and Mrs Powell also enjoys income from a number of rental properties according to the Register of MP’s Financial Interests)

Despite the general ignorance of the line of questioning some important points were raised. The fact that the Enterprise Passport is “on hold” to use Christine Hodgson‘s phrase is of note but it was more a pity that the MPs did not have the forensic insight to ask how much had been spent on this project to date. The figures for the amount of applications for funding the CEC received should also have caused a greater swell of interest. For the original £5m funding pot, they received over 10 times (£50m) worth of applications which just shows that there could be vastly more CEIAG work happening with young people if only the funding was there. Again, the MP’s did not pick up on this huge appetite for provision that is currently being unfilled.

As the session progressed, both Hodgson and Claudia Harris struggled gainfully and mostly unsuccessfully to overcome the MPs preordained views. At times, this was the fault of the two representatives of the CEC as they struggled to recall funding amounts or specific data that would’ve helped their push-back and appear more in charge of their remit. This was clearly apparent as they struggled to articulate the processes and structure of the biding and allocation of both the Personal Guidance funds and the Career Hubs monies. This was not helped by Robert Halfon confusing his brief over the remit of two distinct pots of money but also the failure of Harris to explain why biding processes had been designed with certain methodologies and if the £5m allocated for disadvantaged young people was definitively going to be spent on disadvantaged young people. The promises that current schemes (Compass and the 2019 publication of destination data of pupils involved with CEC funded activities) would soon bear fruit also failed to appease the Committee. The central point remains though, it is clearly fair for Select Committee’s to ask for clarity on expenditure and impact and the CEC, with their multitude of funding pots and provision schemes, certainly dropped the ball in explaining this coherently.

Equally though, dissatisfaction arose due to the fact that the roles of the CEC still seem undefined to those MPs who oversee them. Despite Hodgson’s appeals to the contrary that their DfE grant letter provides a clear remit, throughout the session the CEC was tasked by different Members with being a provider of CEIAG provision, an umbrella organisation channelling funding to organisations on the front-line and a research intensive body such as the Education Endowment Foundation only finding what does and doesn’t work (somehow despite their earlier criticisms of too high a research budget) or all of those things or even some mixture of those things.

Perhaps, through no fault of its own, by the time of its creation, the marketplace the CEC hopes to shelter under its umbrella and stakeholder’s perceptions of CEIAG provision had grown so distinct and varied that bringing all of the partner organisations and oversight bodies together will provide a much harder task than they imagined. It’s not that everybody isn’t yet singing from the same hymn sheet, it’s that, despite the huge research investment, the debate over which hymn sheet to use is still happening.