Careers Entreprise Company

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.

Advertisements

The CEC Implementation & Careers Hub Plans

When it finally came, the Careers Strategy placed a lot of emphasis on the work of the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) so far and even increased the scope of the organisations work in the future. Alongside the actual implementation responsibilities of schools, practitioners and other stakeholders, the CEC was tasked with a broader range of targets and policies beyond increasing employer engagement which had been it’s main remit up until now. These extra strands of provision for the CEC to coordinate show that the organisation is consolidating it’s position as the Government’s core organising force across careers policy for young people in England.

The Strategy set out that through to 2020 the CEC would oversee

  • schools and Colleges wider Careers provision across all of the Gatsby benchmarks
  • a £5m investment fund for careers provision for disadvantaged pupils
  • the collaborative discussion to define the Careers Leader role
  • the £4m funding pot for the training programme for around 500 Careers Leaders
  • to initiate and support 20 Careers Hubs across the country with another £5m pot of funding
  • Triple their “Cornerstone” employer contacts to 150
  • link every school and college with an Enterprise Adviser and boost the number of employer encounters to at least one a year from years 7 to 13

This will be a significant expansion both in responsibilities and the staffing needed to meet them for the CEC.

Soon (March 9th 2018) after the publication of the Strategy, the CEC responded with a (draft) Implementation Plan that set out how they would achieve and measure achievement of those policy actions. The draft plan states that

  • the £5m investment fund will be split with £2.5m directed towards increasing employer encounters and the other £2.5m invested into funding and testing personal guidance models
  • the £4m Careers Leader training funds will be open to schools who are members of the new Career Hubs but also not in Career Hubs

and also asked for submissions of feedback. The final version was released 9th April 2018 with a few cosmetic changes and some additional photographs but only the following substantive alterations to the text

Final version:

  • Acknowledges that Careers Hubs should not replicate local networks “Where other local structures are already established, we will look to engage these networks to avoid duplication and coordinate effort”
  • Allocates around £1000 central Hub fund per school for activities
  • Includes the need to collaborate with experts in STEM & SEND when learning from pilots
  • Includes the need to encompass existing quality measures in outcome research such as the Matrix Standard and Careers Quality Awards
  • promises the inclusion of the CDI Framework of Learning Outcomes when looking at an individuals outcomes when measuring impact

So whatever submissions were made only asked for or gained small-scale changes. We do know that Careers England submitted a response which I felt was measured in its welcoming tone for much of the plan but also asked the most pertinent question regarding whether the funding available is sufficient to meet the high aspirations of the Plan.

Careers Hubs

Alongside the Final Plan were published the details on the Career Hubs policy including the prospectus for interested collaborative groups to apply. A Careers Hub is essentially the CEC version of a middle tier now represented by Regional School Commissioners in the world of academy management. In 2014 the DfE realised that it could not possibly performance manage the huge number of academies in the English system from a central organisation so inserted a layer of middle tier accountability and guidance into a system not well designed to accommodate it. It seems that the CEC has learnt from this and, after first running the North East LEP pilot scheme, are building a structure to encourage growth in quality and accountability first rather than merely hoping sporadic support would see a coherent system flourish.

The plans for Hubs are ambitious. They require groups of schools (20-40) to collaborative together and with other local stakeholders to build each schools provision across the Gatsby benchmarks.

careershub1

They are ambitious as they require buy in from lots of stakeholders and providers who will be tempted by the organisational and (slight) funding support on offer but may also be tentative in their support as Hubs have the potential to overlap or replace local partnership and structures already in place. (Much like the Careers Leader role, the balance between adhering to centrally dictated structures and not trampling on locally founded solutions is not something found without willingness to change from practitioners) Meanwhile, organisers in locales without strong current networking structures or those providing services in deprived areas (outside of defined Opportunity Areas who have a separate process) will, I hope, be champing at the bit to put forward a proposal for a Careers Hub.

The fist hurdle to overcome for any Enterprise Co-ordinator or Council Skills Development Manager will be a challenging one though. The initial expression of interest deadline is 24th April 2018 and the Excel Eligibility checker reply document asks the respondent questions which refer to the commitment and capacity of all involved schools. An Organiser diligently completing this form could be sending and chasing replies from up to 40 schools within 11 working days and some will also have to contend with the fact that their schools will still be on Easter break until the 16th, leaving only 7 working days to collate responses. The truth will be that many of the initial interest submissions will be sent without consultation from all potential participants as Organisers will hope to consult and gain buy in from schools in the period until the 24th May 2018 deadline for the whole application form to be submitted. The FAQ (Appendix F) explains that Hub bids will be able to swap around up to 10% of named schools before the scheme starts so this allows some flex for Organisers unable to secure buy in from schools.

Employer Encounters Fund

The £2.5m fund for Employer Encounters will accessible to “some” schools in Careers Hubs through “virtual wallets” obtained through a separate bidding process for Hubs.  These encounters will be available to purchase from providers approved by the CEC. Local providers of employer engagement will be keenly awaiting the May publication of the CEC approved provider list.

Hub Leads

Each of the 20 Hubs will be supported by the CEC to recruit a Hub Lead on a salary of £40,000-£50,000 plus expenses. This adds a significant new role into the careers landscape and one that will have plenty of current Enterprise Co-ordinators scouring  the job description (Appendix C) and thinking that they already perform many of the duties listed.

Conclusion

The Hub proposals look very enticing and those involved with the policy over the next few academic years should be excited at the promises of support on offer from the CEC. The prospectus includes many references to those schools outside of Hubs who will still be able to access funding for Careers Leader training funds and other CEC services but not the Employer Encounters funding. As only “some” schools in Hubs will be allocated this, there is certainly the potential for schools to be in different speed lanes for the support with their Careers provision over the next few years. A school that is part of a Hub and meeting their commitments in the Hub Memorandum of Understanding while also receiving financial support for Careers Leader training, Employer Encounter funding and the other guidance and support from the CEC and their Enterprise Co-ordinators would be in a very different position to a school without those advantages. If this offer is open in your area, take it up, and if your Council Lead or Enterprise Co-ordinator hasn’t submitted a bid, be asking them why not. There might well be good reasons for not wanting to be involved (a belief in established local networks for example), but for cash and resource starved CEIAG practitioners wanting to offer quality provision in their school, being part of a Careers Hub trial certainly looks like a rocket boost to being to achieve that.

 

Finding a solution to the Careers Leader conundrum

Headteachers face a daily barrage of decisions and choices be they to do with staff, curriculum, funding, parents, the community, the list goes on and, at some point over the next few months, the Department for Education expects that one of these decisions will be to nominate a “Careers Leader” for their school. This requirement, with the demand for schools to publish their programme of careers events, was included in both the updated 2018 Statutory Careers Guidance for schools and the wider looking Careers Strategy.

The careers strategy sets out that every school needs a Careers Leader who
has the energy and commitment, and backing from their senior leadership team, to
deliver the careers programme across all eight Gatsby Benchmarks. Every school
will be asked to name this Careers Leader. This requirement will be introduced in
September 2018, by when more information and support will be made available

Since the removal of Connexions funding and the requirement on schools to offer CEIAG back in 2012, schools have responded with a multitude of staffing structures. My experience of CEIAG teams of staff responsible for careers include:

  • A Senior Leader
  • A teacher leading on Careers as a teaching & learning responsibility alongside classroom teaching
  • A non teaching, pastoral member of staff co-ordinating careers provision
  • A contracted guidance practitioner brought in by the school
  • A practitioner from a contracted outside agency who combines guidance and co-ordinator roles
  • A consultant type role from the Multi Academy Trust head office
  • A member of admin staff who is tasked to support the careers team
  • A member of another pastoral team (mentors, house leaders etc) who has some of their timetable dedicated to careers support

or any mixture of the above. The combinations of CEIAG teams vary widely and even when job titles match, the actual duties of those professionals from school to school can differ enormously.

Oversight and tracking of these changes in the careers workforce since 2011 can be found throughout the work of David Andrews. Whether when replying to Parliament or publishing papers considering the future journey of Careers policy (from back in 2013),

While there is evidence that some schools have responded to the new policy by establishing innovative provision that represents an improvement on what was available in the recent past, the overall situation in schools is a deterioration in
the level of careers guidance. Schools are adopting a range of models for
securing access to careers guidance for their pupils.

through his country-wide travels, consultancy and courses he has been consistently abreast of the changes in how careers provision has been delivered for young people. It is from these varied starting points that schools will now attempt to incorporate the Careers Leader job title into their structure.

The 2018 Careers guidance also promised that a job role outline would be published by the DfE to help schools define the role by September 2018. Even before that both the Careers Enterprise Company (CEC) and the CDI have released guidance material and proposed job outlines. The CEC see the roles in schools falling into line with the table below:

careers leaders1

but I think they would be wrong to assume that a “Co-ordinator” type role will disappear. Some schools will name a current non teaching Careers Co-ordinator as their Careers Leader and even change their job title but many though will name a member of SLT as their Careers Leader which still then leaves plenty of Careers work for a Co-ordinator to do as shown by the suggested job description from the CDI.

I put out a poll on Twitter and most of the replies either nominated a non teaching CEIAG lead or a Teacher as their Careers Lead.

Both of these solutions would fit the CDI vision of a Careers Leader being a professional role but those who replied “teacher” will also find themselves in a position where the nominated Careers Leader isn’t actually the member of staff carrying out most of the duties of a Careers Leader. A classroom teacher simply couldn’t fit the work in. As the CDI say though,

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

so getting hung up about job titles and responsibilities won’t add much value to CEIAG careers provision in schools. Schools will allocate responsibilities how they see fitting within their budget, pastoral and current staffing structures. Especially at a time when budgets are extremely tight for schools and only going to get worse.

The complete failure to allocate funding that matches the ambition of the Careers Strategy is not suddenly going to disappear just because everyone agrees on a job title and job description. This is not fertile ground on which to sow requests for schools to restructure staffing or find wages for new roles. At the time of writing (March 2018) a quick scan of the careers posts advertised reflect this as such. In the adverts for a 3 day a week non teaching post and a teaching post below, the pay is low for the dedicated role and the teacher would be fitting the duties in alongside leading a department and a teaching timetable.

The Careers Strategy did also come with the promise of funding for training for 500 Careers Leaders which the CEC then set out how this funding would be accessed in their Implementation Plan response.

careers leaders2

Any standardization of CEIAG job roles across schools seems a little way off just yet so I’m not convinced that, between now and September that schools will suddenly all start to coalesce around the same staffing structure for CEIAG. Without funding for capacity, schools will make do and mend with who they have. I would also be wary that the schools that first take up this job title will be those with some form of CEIAG team already in place so I would go further than the CEC plan for Careers Leader training above and bar any school that currently holds a Careers Quality Mark from applying. That would better ensure that the funds were going to schools most resistant or unable to enact quality careers provision until now.

What the CEC and CDI (and the forthcoming DfE) Careers Leader job descriptions do offer though is a uniformity of duty and purpose. If nothing else, they allow Leaders lucky enough to be in post to use those job descriptions to find the elbow room to be able to carry out good CEIAG work in schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cold Spots accountability hole

 

Following on from the previous post on this blog looking at how the non publication of apprenticeship vacancy, starts, registrations and applications data by age will mean an accountability hole when judging the progress of the Careers Strategy and schools guidance documents, this is a sequel post of sorts looking at another data accountability gap that will cause the Careers & Enterprise Company some problems.

The release of the Company’s Cold Spots research in 2015 drew together a number of data sources from other Government departments and quangos to map the weaker and stronger areas of employer engagement focused careers provision across England. This audit was useful as it allowed the Company to focus pilot schemes and target initial provision into the locations that needed it the most.

The Company has recently released a short, 2017 update to that original Cold Spots report that, according to those external data sources, shows a “warming” in career outcomes for young people across England.

coldspots1

This map shows that only one Local Enterprise Partnership area (Thames Valley Berkshire) has regressed and was now returning a higher number of cold spot indicators than in 2015. As the report itself says though, “it is too early to make claims about causality” and this is included for good reason. The original 2015 Cold Spots were based on 9 external data sources

Deprivation indicator:
– % Pupils known to be eligible for and claiming free school meals (FSM)1
2013/14
Employer engagement indicators i.e., “cold spots”
– % Employer establishments who had anyone in on work experience2 in the
last 12 months
– % Employer establishments who offered any work inspiration3 in the last
12 months
Outcome indicators:
– % Pupils attaining 5A*-C GCSE results in England 2013 – 14
– % A-levels entered that are STEM4 2013 – 14
– % STEM4 A-levels that are entered by girls 2013 – 145
– % In sustained apprenticeship destinations post key stage 4 (KS4) 2012/13
– % 16-17 year olds NEET (not in education, employment and training), as
reported by LA in June 2015
– % Employers answering: 16 year old school leavers are “poorly” or “very
poorly prepared” for work
– % Employers answering: 17-18 year olds recruited to first time job from
school are “poorly” or “very poorly prepared” for work

The 2016 update continued to use these sources but now the 2017 update finds itself in a quandary as two of those sources (the two employer returns from the UKCES employer survey data looking at satisfaction of school leaver skills & the offers of work experience and work inspiration activities from businesses) are no longer reporting in the same manner. This is due to the closure of UKCES. The responsibility to continue the survey moved to the DfE but the data gathered will be from a smaller sample size (around 18,000 telephone interviews in the 2016 edition vs over 91,000 telephone and face to face interviews in the UKCES editions) leaving the CEC with a dilemma. They need to both show progress on the continuing funded work both in cold spot areas (opportunity areas in Government speak) across the country but also to show the distance traveled from the starting point since the CEC’s inception this data has to be somewhat comparable year on year.

This leaves the CEC relying on GCSE results data and student destination data which are useful outputs to monitor but are one-sided in focusing on the supply side of students entering the workplace. The views of the demand side from employers would not now be comparable across past years.

Thus the recent publication ends with a consultative call for suggestions on which data points to use to achieve this. The CEC should be wary about using data supplied by employer bodies such as the CBI as, historically, this has been much more scathing on the work readiness of school leavers entering the labour market and much more positive about the contribution of business offering experiences to young people. The UKCES returns told a story of employers being much more satisfied with the employability skills of young people and of a significantly smaller amount of engagement provision with education. So the first stipulation for any new data sources the CEC use, would be that they should be from impartial sources. On the flip side to this coin, data supplied by LEPs should also be considered with an arched eyebrow for they will be keen to champion the success of Government funding in their own patch.

It’s also worth pointing out that the improving “warming” outcomes are in direct opposition to survey results from young people who report a lower number of employer engagements last academic year.

Does asking young people what they actually experienced meet the criteria the CEC is looking for?

Another factor for the CEC to consider is that trends in some of these data points are very much at the whim of changeable Government policy. Putting aside the example of UKCES closing it’s doors, using the number of KS4 leavers in sustained Apprenticeship destinations is commendable but since 2015 the Apprenticeship Levy has reshaped that sector, initially caused a drop in overall numbers of starts and begun to grow the provision that is left towards higher and degree apprenticeships and away from the Level 2 Apprenticeships open to 16-year-old GCSE leavers. The Higher Education Funding review could yet again change levels of tuition fees and so impact the desired destinations of young people. Perhaps the case is being made for the CEC to allocate some of its funding to tender for its own data collections and not be reliant on other arms of the State but, at a scale similar to UKCES level data collection, this would need significant investment.

It is the task of the CEC, to make a quantifiable impact on an area of public policy with multiple inputs and multiple outputs and, with their expanded remit in the Careers Strategy, the number of inputs will only grow. Getting the data points right to measure that impact is proving tricky.

CEC annual accounts 2017

careers_logo

Since the dissolution of the Connexions framework for delivering CEIAG across England, the placing of the statutory duty upon schools to provide this provision and the establishment of the Careers & Enterprise Company to oversee this area of policy, the hardest thing to track and keep an accountable comparison record of has been the amount of public funds allocated by Government.

At the time of its passing, the annual £200m of funding that Connexions received was much used to highlight just how big of change was being planned by the then Government. Asking schools to fulfill the same level of provision while only retaining a £4.7m web and phone National Careers Service out of the Connexions pot was always going to be a test for resource levels.

The establishment of the Careers & Enterprise Company came with a slew of funding stream promises which were difficult to disentangle to find the overall package worth. Announcements in the budget gave (in political lingo) the spending envelope but, still, left out the detail for how the pie was to be split. It was also worth remembering during the period that the CEC was originally floated it was allocated a £20m start up pot but that it would then be fully employer funded.

Another piece of the jigsaw to complete the funding picture was filed in November 2017 as the Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year ended March 2017 for the CEC were filed at Companies House.

The audited accounts show that for the financial year ending March 2017, the CEC’s income rose to £14,732,430 from £6,204,509 the previous year and that this sum came solely from a Government grant for both years. For 16/17 this is actually less than the £19.5m set aside by the Government for the CEC but the “resource expenditure” was lower than expected.

The CEC is leasing its Clerkenwell Green offices no more than a year in advance (future lease commitments page 19).

The Statement also details that the number of staff is now up to 24 from 9 in 2016 as the Company has expanded its research and outreach teams (page 15). The wage bill of £1,335,319 means that the average salary for a CEC employee is a little over £55,000. Enterprise Coordinators will not be included in this as, I think, their wages come from the Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Elsewhere in the document, the Strategic and Directors reports outline the CEC plans and goals including it’s “ambition..to bring together the best technology to create a digital system for careers and enterprise activity” or Lord Young’s long mooted Enterprise Passport. Lord Young himself is a Director of the CEC and was one of the three on the Incorporation of “Enterprise for Education Ltd” as the organisation was originally named. £11m external funding has been “secured” for the Investment Funds program of researched provision while page 2 also boasts of another £15m of external funding being “leveraged” to “increase investment in the system.” These could also be public funds from Government or bodies such as LEPS.

Page 2 confirms that the CEC has been funded by the Government for 17/18.

As you can see, even with an end of financial year statement, finding a total amount of public funding being spent on CEIAG provision isn’t easy. Add to the sums mentioned in this document can be the funding for the National Careers Service, the Job Centre Plus work in schools, branding and promotion schemes such as YourLife or the Year of Engineering 2018 and you have a multitude of funding streams with changeable annual budgets. These type of documents are important though for they detail the actual expenditure of the CEC and not the canny accounting which can conjure up the figures in politicians speeches.

 

 

 

 

 

The CEC State of the Nation report

The latest publication from the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) continuing their expanding library of research, State of the Nation 2017: Careers and enterprise provision in England’s schools was published earlier this month. Utilizing the “State of the Nation” title also employed by the annual updates from the Social Mobility Commission (and so helping affirm the aims of the CEC with policy makers), this is a publication which shows the Company moving on from earlier releases which audited the CEIAG landscape and onto a new stage of updating on progress made.

The report is based on 578 responses from secondary schools who have completed the online Careers program auditing tool, Compass, and the comparison of this set of data with the data collected for the original Gatsby Good Career guidance report in 2014.

The CEC makes a number of claims from this exercise but the accompanying media coverage focused on the responses which indicate an improvement in school provision since 2014 as more schools report that they are meeting more benchmarks.

There is evidence of improvement since the original Gatsby survey in 2014. Schools in 2016/2017 are achieving an average of half a Benchmark more than they were in 2014/2015 (1.87 versus 1.34). The proportion of schools not achieving any Benchmarks has fallen by one third from 31% to 21%. The proportion of schools achieving half the Benchmarks has more than doubled from 6% to 16%

Which sounds positive but these are figures which should be treated with caution and, like the rest of the report, taken in the round alongside other data. These are the points I found most interesting in the report:

1. This is a small number of schools and a narrow method of evidence collection

As can be seen in the Appendices, the 2014 Gatsby report used multiple sources of evidence to form it’s benchmarks, recommendations and costings. Six overseas visits took place with interviews with practitioners, policy makers and stakeholders in these countries conducted. Visits and interviews with six Independent schools also added to the evidence base as well as reviewing eighteen previous reports on CEIAG provision. Finally an online survey was completed by 361 secondary schools in winter 2014.

gatsby school profiles

The breakdown of the responding schools

As a baseline, 361 schools (from approximately  3329 secondary schools at the time) is a thin slice so it’s positive that 578 have used the Compass tool but this is still small. The 2014 figures included only 9 schools then judged as Requiring Improvement by Ofsted, the 2017 report does not include this figure. In 2017 there are now 3408 secondary schools in England so 578 equates to roughly 17% of secondary schools responding.

2. This is based on self evaluation

Asking any professional if they do a good job isn’t going to get objective responses. Both the 2014 and 2017 reports are clear to point out that questions of validity could arise both from the bias of the overall sample (those taking the time to complete the survey could be more likely to be interested in CEIAG for example) and responses being overly generous to the CEIAG provision on offer in their establishment (via the Overconfidence Effect).

None of this data relates to outcomes. No students are asked by an objective third party on their view of provision, no destination data monitored, no LEO data cross referenced, no employers surveyed. Self evaluation via online questionnaire is an extremely limited (but cheap) method of providing reference points and progress evaluation.

This is typified by the inclusion of one of the case study schools that reported itself to be meeting “seven or eight” of the Gatsby benchmarks. Looking at the most recent KS4 destination data (2015) for that school, you can see that all of the data that a school with a strong CEIAG offer should be achieving well on, the school isn’t:

  • Pupils staying staying in education or employment for at least 2 terms after KS4 is 86%, well below the 94% average for English state funded schools
  • Pupils not staying in education or employment for at least 2 terms after KS4 is 11% well above the 5% national average
  • The percentage of KS4 leavers moving into Apprenticeships is 3%, half the nation average of 6%

It’s important to remember that behind all of those statistics are the actual students who each had their own story, background and challenges to overcome but these are not the statistics to highlight the positive social justice leveling work of CEIAG,

The report references these omissions on page 26 and makes the somewhat valid point that

One limitation of attainment and progression data is that it is backward looking and thus if we look for relationships between the Compass data and outcomes, we are comparing one cohort’s career provision with another cohort’s outcomes

and conclude that the destination data sources mentioned above could be used to correlate with Compass data over a longer period of time. This would enable relationships (if any) between consistent quality CEIAG provision and student outcomes to be found. This is an admirable goal to be supported in future but it isn’t how accountability in education works. Ofsted gradings are held by schools for years after the inspection took place, a young person leaving Year 11 this summer might have attended an “outstanding” school but could be based on a verdict of provision that happened seven years ago. There is always a lag between monitoring of provision and actual provision.

3. Further bad social mobility vibes

Another of the included case studies is also a little tone deaf for an organisation that is keen to show that it playing it’s role in the Government’s social mobility agenda through the Opportunity Area policy. Including Simon Langton Girls Grammar School, a selective entry school whose pupils, including the 5.6% eligible for free school meals, must take the Kent Procedure for Entrance to Secondary Education tests to enrol is at odds with the overall aim of both the document and the CEC.  The CEIAG work at Simon Langton might be exceptional, it certainly features prominently on their website, but this is not helping disadvantaged pupils. Areas with selection at age 11 fail the poorest children and the CEC should steer clear of involving itself in work that perpetuates these outcomes.

4. If the survey responses are to be believed, then Quality Mark Awards are far too generous

The 2017 data survey data reports that schools that hold a Careers Quality Mark (now all joined together in the Quality in Careers Standard) achieve a higher number of Gatbsy benchmarks than those schools without but that this still only reaches an average of 2.63 of the 8 benchmarks for those schools. This is a blow to those who advocate that Quality Marks are a valid indicator of provision quality. The results of a self reported survey, including the biases mentioned above, are reporting that their CEIAG provision does not meet the benchmarks the external monitored Quality Marks claim they do. That there is so little congruence between these results is evidence that Careers Quality Marks assessment and monitoring processes have not been anywhere near stringent or demanding enough and need to improve. As the report says

As the Quality in Careers Standard works towards aligning fully with the Benchmarks we would expect to see schools achieving the Quality in Careers Standard reaching all eight Benchmarks

but this will be a challenge for a service paid for by the schools who have volunteered to be inspected to achieve.

Showing the impact of the type of strategic work the CEC is involved with is always going to be difficult. With so many stakeholders involved in the delivery of provision and so many factors influencing the outcomes for young people, concentrating on the input factors to begin with is sensible but, due to a total reliance on self evaluation, this is also with it’s downsides. Over the forthcoming months I would expect to see the CEC to transition towards utilizing more quantitative data sources on which to base their judgments of progress.

We are beset on all sides by the tyranny of bad CEIAG reports

kxu81h

“say jobs of the future again, I dare you, I double dare you”

A lot of reports get published that look at the state of CEIAG provision for young people in the UK and offer improvement ideas. As well as policy makers there are a vast number of stakeholder organisations in this arena and across areas such as social mobility, apprenticeships, vocational education that all overlap with Careers Advice. Some of these organisations are more upfront in the policy ambitions of their backers than others but all have found that publishing a report is a proven method of gaining those all important media column inches if you want to advance your agenda.

Some sink, never to pass over the desks of Ministers while others take center stage in shaping Government thinking. The quality spectrum of these reports is wide and two came out recently that, to my mind, should be filed at the weaker end of the publication pool.

First up came Beyond the Numbers: Incentivising & implementing better apprenticeships from the University of Sheffield. Branded under their “Sheffield Solutions” research arm, the publication was based on a number of interviews with

local and national stakeholders in education, training and youth services, staff members – including tutors, trainers and employers

views from apprentices which were collected from

two focus groups and a number of in-depth, semi-structured interviews

as well as previous publications. The report includes quotes and stories that rehash the cliches of school CEIAG’s relationship to apprenticeships, including a lack of information regarding alternative to HE routes, a belief that apprenticeships were treated as a second class pathway and that high achieving pupils were actively discouraged from applying for them. The actual application figures of young people compared to the opportunities on offer, isn’t considered.

Where the report really falls down though is in it’s recommendations for schools

sheffield1

  1. Rethinking school league tables to include apprenticeships – this already happens. When you go the DfE school comparison site you can find individual school data through school name, distance to your postcode, through Local Authority area or through Parliamentary Constituency. Users can then scroll down past huge amounts of information about the school to find the Pupil Destinations – what pupils did after key stage 4 drop down menu and, hey presto, there is that information.

sheffield2

You can also find this data about key stage 5 leavers on the 16-18 tab further up the page.

Apprenticeship destination information is a single drop on a website that is an ocean of information about each school from the number of teachers, to the performance of disadvantaged pupils, to the number of pupils entered in Physics, Biology and Chemistry. Data on pupils remaining in education or employment after leaving the school is included in the headline data

sheffield3

but the sheer amount of other information means that users are left to navigate to find what is important to them.

2. Extra training and resources for Careers Advisers in school about apprenticeships – nobody is ever going to say ‘no’ to more resources or extra training which is why the DfE has contracted organisations across the country to offer this to schools. The provider across the Midlands is Workpays. They will come into school to offer provision for students, send you resources and offer training. The DfE has a page with resources for schools and advisers and the ASK (Apprenticeship Support & Knowledge) providers will come and offer events for students. The University of Sheffield is, again, recommending something that already exists.

3. Coordinated, single application process for apprenticeships – Guess what, it already exists. Find An Apprenticeship is not a great website (it’s text search is terrible) but it is a single, coordinated portal for apprenticeships. All of the apprenticeships, they’re all on there. What it is not though is a single application process as many apprenticeship vacancies require an applicant to click through to the employer website to register (again) and complete an application. This is something that is out of the hands of Government as many employers will insist on their own hiring methods that are standardized across their business for all job roles. This is part of the challenge when supporting a young person through a labyrinth registration process on a company website full of business jargon but it fits established employer HR practices.

So all three of the recommendations for education are, to some extent, already in place which highlights how, while diagnosing problems with CEIAG provision may be achievable, offering solutions requires more a real understanding of the landscape.

The other report that caught my attention was Averting a 90Bn GDP crises: A report on the image and recruitment crises facing the built environment carried out by Kier Group by polling “2000 secondary school teachers, advisers and parents.” The Group, a profitable player in the UK construction market, look very keen to play their part in improving student career advice by pledging 1% of their workforce to act as ambassadors and place a “virtual world plaque” on sites to help the public “explore a digital world of information on a project.” They hope that these initiatives will begin to change widely held views of their industry as their poll reports 73% of parents not wanting their child to pursue a career in the sector and, despite 76% knowing that apprenticeships lead to careers in construction, 45% wouldn’t encourage their child to take an apprenticeship when leaving school. To it’s credit the report gives context to the current CEIAG landscape by devoting a whole page the loss of funding and the placing of the legal duty on schools in 2012.

Where the report fails to offer much value is, again, in the recommended solutions, both those from within the construction industry and from government, to improve the situation. Despite clearly identifying that parents are a persuasive and influential negative voice against young people aspiring to work in their industry they suggest nothing to then engage with parents. That parents are an important voice in shaping the career views of a young person is backed up by other data and we also have clear indications of how young people would like to receive their CEIAG and what types of provision help them most. An important type of provision is work experience and workplace visits, the report also fails to acknowledge or offer a proposal to grow the dearth of these opportunities in the sector.

dioz0yrw4aaemp8

The 1% workforce ambassador pledge will hopefully, from a very low base, improve the number of work inspiration opportunities.

From Government they ask that the Careers & Enterprise Company is allowed to continue it’s work (it will be so this isn’t much of recommendation) and

2. Mandate that every school gives children a minimum of three one hour careers advice sessions – the first session with a school advisor, follow up sessions with ambassadors from relevant industries.
3. Ensuring the frameworks and resources are in place to support schools and colleges to meet all of the eight benchmarks identified by the Gatsby Foundation14 for best practice careers advice
4. Mandate that the careers advice process begins as early as possible in a young person’s life to enable them to make informed choices about their subject/course selection

which are all useful and worthwhile suggestions but after earlier acknowledging that

as part of the difficult choices made through austerity measures, funding for Connexions was cut, leaving a significant responsibility largely resting with schools themselves

and that

given substantial and repeated budget cuts, other schools are unable to provide the kind of service that they would aspire to

the report fails to then include the obvious point that these (uncosted) increases in service provision would require more funding. This shows a lack of willingness to bring up the funding of public services for the wider benefit and a failure to acknowledge the financial reality in schools.

Reports that help shine attention to the issues with employer engagement and CEIAG in schools but also then offer constructive solutions that work within the realities of the landscape are to be welcomed. Reports that finger point at a Careers service under funded and unable to solve all of the problems laid at it’s door without significant collaboration and investment, only have one purpose; to shift the focus of blame away from the other stakeholders.