careers leaders

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.

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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 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.