careers strategy

February 2018 Careers Guidance for FE & Sixth Form Colleges

The final chapter in a slew of recently published careers guidance documents and reports is a pair of publications focusing on CEIAG provision in FE & Sixth Form Colleges in England.

Coming after the Careers Strategy, the Gatsby benchmarks for schools, the Statutory schools Guidance and it’s sister document Good Career Guidance Benchmarks for Young People in Colleges, Careers Guidance: Guidance for further education colleges and sixth form colleges, it’s important to note, is not a Statutory document for the Further Education Sector. The exempt charitable status of many of the providers in the sector does not allow for such diktats. Where the leverage comes from for the compliance with the standards and expectations set out in the document are the clear warnings that failure to adhere could result in the withdrawal of ESFA grant funding (which would be a major decision to take).

Following from their work on school CEIAG standards which was well received by both practitioners and policy markers, Gatsby again supply the backbone of the standards document. In this instance though a critical piece of work is missing which then damages confidence in all that follows. The original Gatsby report used a number of sources to build their recommended standards. As well as looking at provision in other countries, reviewing research and interviewing stakeholders, the Foundation also commissioned PWC to figure how much this would cost an average school. For the College document, conversations with Colleges seem to have happened but no specific costing documents have been published. This missing building block means that the recommended standards of provision that follow ring a little hollow, especially in the sector of education that has a building consensus of agreement in its underfunding.

The guidance in the document itself falls into three categories:

  1. Provision that makes perfect sense
  2. Provision that makes perfect sense but is going to need a lot more resource
  3. The Brexit Unicorn is riding into town before this happens

Provision that makes perfect sense

Much does. Asking every College to have a “Careers Leader” to mirror the forthcoming role in schools means that each Post 16 provider can still tailor their student service offer but ensures that a named individual is responsible. An embedded programme of CEIAG that is reviewed regularly, that keeps learner records of interactions and challenges stereotypical thinking would please all practitioners. It’s good to see destinations data achieve clear priority and the requirement for employer interactions is only sensible considering the relevant research and the entire remit of most Further Education provision. Asking for clear links between Careers Leaders and SEN provision at previous stages of the learners journey is welcome. Building the work of the CEC into Post 16 Careers work, after the work of the Local Area Reviews, continues the link to local labour market demand. Finally, the clear recommendation for guidance interviews to be conducted by Level 6 and above qualified advisers is a clear signpost for dedicated student support teams in Post 16 provision rather than “one stop shop” offers.

Provision that makes perfect sense by is going to need a lot more resource

As the forthcoming T Levels will also demand, ensuring that work experience is a standard component of a study programme is a desirable outcome but one which will require a lot more opportunities for work experience placements.

Expanding the remit of the CEC to enable Colleges and schools to meet all of the Benchmarks across both Guidance documents is sensible but, I’m sure Enterprise Co-ordaintors would agree, they would need more support than just new provision mapping tools to achieve this. A release of a College specific Compass tool in September 2018 is welcome but will not be near enough.

The Brexit Unicorn rides into town

Benchmark 8 is the steepest mountain to climb. It requires that every 16-18 learner has at least one guidance interview before the end of the course. This would be a huge demand on staffing levels across many Colleges. I think that, comparably my own College is well staffed. We have 4 Advisers (including myself) and part-time resource support working across 3 larger sites and another 4 satellite sites. Approximately 4000 Post 16 learners study across the full spectrum of post 16 provision. We strive to make our service as accessible as possible but it would be true that if all of these learners were to take up a full guidance interview then our work with Adult learners, part-time learners and the community will be impacted. Achieving this benchmark would require a fundamental expansion of our staffing levels and, I suspect, the vast majority of Post 16 provision would have to invest from a lower base .

Another requirement that, I think, is pie in the sky is the Benchmark 3 guidance that

records of advice given should be integrated with those given at the previous stage of the learner’s education (including their secondary school) where these are made available

I just can’t foresee standard practice across the country of Careers Leaders in secondary schools getting permission from pupils and then sharing guidance records of all students to all of their destinations. It might happen in pockets across MATs or school to adjoined or local Sixth Form transitions but not to Further Education Colleges.

Post 16 careers provision is a different, more varied beast than provision in secondary schools. The landscape of curriculum, qualification and delivery are all more diverse meaning that the journey and destinations are also wider. This means challenges for any standardization guidance but one that would really want to make a change would be a project that took upon itself the, admittedly considerable, work of finding out how much this would all cost separate from the previous school costings.

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A letter to the new Careers Statutory Guidance for schools January 2018

So, we meet again, my old friend the Careers Statutory Guidance for schools. It’s been a long journey we’ve been on, you and I. It was way back in 2012 that you first appeared, much slimmer than your current form and with an almost naive belief that your lack of specificity or detail would encourage schools to cope with a new set of responsibilities suddenly thrust upon them.

Since then, year by year, you’ve grown and expanded. In 2013 you talked more about the “responsibilities” of a school

perhaps fearful that schools hadn’t paid much attention to your first appearance.

In 2014, you updated again, this time shaped by Matt Hancock who included much more on the positives of school/employer interaction.

By your 2015 incarnation, you were approaching a level of detail that brought warmer words from the professional bodies. The references to Quality Awards, employer engagement, professional face to face guidance where at least there, if the wording of could/should/must still sparked debate. By now though the continual expansion of the Duty document and the recommendations contained were in danger of designing a roof without worrying about the walls.

And so we reach your latest edition, “Careers Guidance and access for education and training providers January 2018” which is your most comprehensive to date. I understand that you can’t really help this bloat, since your inception the landscape around you has grown and you have to acknowledge this. You have to reference:

  • Careers & Enterprise Company
  • The recent Careers Strategy
  • The Baker Clause
  • What Ofsted will inspect
  • The Gatbsy benchmarks
  • Compass
  • Local Enterprise Partnerships

and all of the things still to come

careers stat jan 2018

I want to commend you on much of your content, you’re full of recommendations and suggestions that Careers professionals working in schools would heartily agreed with. Of course Careers Leaders (to use your terminology) would want to include providers of all routes in their careers work, track and monitor the destinations of students, challenge work stereotypes, engage with employers, contract personal providers, consider and plan for the skills needs of the local labour market and work with all relevant stakeholders for the good of all pupils. The detail is there on how to achieve these things, the resources to use, the steps to take, the clarity provided by the Gatbsy benchmarks is wholly helpful.

You outline the “why” we want to achieve these things in a way that, again, would be music to a Careers professionals’ ears

good careers guidance connects learning to the future. It motivates young people by giving them a clearer idea of the routes to jobs and careers that they will find engaging and rewarding. Good careers guidance widens pupils’ horizons, challenges stereotypes and raises aspirations. It provides pupils with the knowledge and skills necessary to make successful transitions to the next stage of their life.

But here, I’m afraid, the praise and welcoming tone of my letter to you must end for you hope to achieve so much, yet offer so little. Much like your Careers Strategy step-father, your ambition outstretches your reach. Money, it seems, is not worthy of a mention.

To satisfy your requirements now, schools will need to fund

  • a salary at a level to entice a capable Careers Leader
  • funding for L6 IAG training for the Careers Leader (or) a contract with a L6 qualified provider
  • funding for work experience
  • funding for coach trips to events such as the Skills Show, employer visits or visits to other providers such as Universities
  • a budget to cover the costs of events in school
  • admin support for this post

And, because of the need from September 2018 to publish their Careers plan, schools will have to think carefully about the provision they publicly commit to and the funding this will require from future budgets. And this omission is not for the lack of numbers. We know that Gatbsy & PWC did the work in great detail.

gatsby 1

You’ve just chosen to ignore it and hope that, somehow, schools will just deal with these new costs every year.

I’m sure that we’ll meet again soon, you already mention a September 2018 update, in the meantime I hope that you acknowledge, at least, that quality outcomes do not just come from standards papers. Investment begets performance and that the level of quality provision you outline does require, I’m afraid, investment.

The 2017 Careers Strategy: Making the most of everyone’s skills and talents

This morning at the annual CDI conference the Government has announced the publication of it’s long awaited Careers Strategy.

Link to the Strategy:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/664319/Careers_strategy.pdf

Link to the Press Release:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/careers-guidance-for-modern-country-unveiled

Links to media coverage:

https://www.tes.com/news/further-education/breaking-news/government-launches-new-careers-strategy

https://schoolsweek.co.uk/careers-strategy-the-4-main-proposals-for-schools/

 

Links to stakeholder reaction:

http://www.naht.org.uk/welcome/news-and-media/key-topics/leadership/careers-guidance/

http://ersa.org.uk/media/news/government-launches-its-long-awaited-careers-strategy

http://www.cbi.org.uk/news/introducing-dedicated-careers-leaders-should-give-careers-inspiration-much-needed-prominence-in-schools/

 

 

There are lots of smaller announcements in the document. Whether or not these add up to form a coherent strategy will remain to be seen. Some of the announcements of new provision do come with added funding but, it should be clear, that these funding levels are well below the historic Connexions funding and below the required funding outlined via the Gatsby report.

Practitioners will go through the document with a fine tooth comb looking for sections which most impact their work, accordingly I have concentrated on announcements to do with school and college careers work. There is plenty in the Strategy to do with adult careers services as well.

Below are some of the bits that jumped out at me on first reading

A: A new website for the National Careers Service is coming

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B: A Careers Leader job description will also be published while schools will need to publish the contact details of this person and the provision their schools provide from September 2018. The list of responsibilities of a Careers Leader may well end the historic careers in schools cliche of teachers taking the role in a few free timetable slots.

The funding for training Careers Leaders is welcome but it should be acknowledged that is it for 500 schools (approx £8000 per school). There are currently 3408 secondary schools.

Previously Connexions was funded approx £200m annually while the Gatsby report concluded that (from it’s second year) a funded schools Careers programme would cost £44,676 per academic year or over £152m an academic year for the current number of secondary schools.

careersstrat5

C: 20 “Careers hubs” look like an expansion of the North East Enterprise Partnership Gatsby pilot. Will these match with Opportunity Areas and will each Hub employ their own Co-ordinator as the pilot did

careersstrat4

D: A firm challenge to the Quality in Careers Consortium. Despite lobbying for a required status, the Strategy retains the “recommeded” nature of Quality Standards and clearly demands that their invigilation and inspection requirements are strengthened to meet the Gatsby Standards. The recent results from the Compass self evaluation tool show that this will be a big change.

careersstrat3

E: CEIAG provision in primary schools will be getting it’s own funding boost and research to see what works for young people at this stage of education

careersstrat2

F: A handy timeline of when all the components of the Strategy will come online

careersstrat1

G: For many years policy makers have been calling for a centralised portal for applying for vocational courses – the Strategy says this could happen and it would be hosted on the National Careers Service website

careersstrat7

H: Schools should be putting on a Careers Fair, speed dating or work experience type event for every year group, every academic year

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I: New Statutory guidance is coming in January 2018 – which is also the crux of the biggest problem with the strategy

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There are other small pots of funding allocated throughout, £5m in 2018 for a further round of Careers & Enterprise Company investment funding for example, but the ultimate aim of the document is to push the system towards offering a Gatsby Standards level of provision without the Gatsby Standards invoice.

Also missing is any notion of accountability or monitoring for these changes. The research arm of the Careers & Enterprise Company is churning out publications highlighting impact of past provision but the Strategy makes no mention of tracking impacts of provision on cohorts of students.

Laws upon laws, duties upon duties…

As, I would imagine, most readers of this blog would be aware, Secondary schools in England have a current statutory duty to provide CEIAG on all routes to their pupils. Despite this, Vocational and apprenticeship providers and policy lobbyists are making loud noises about the need for further legislation in this area.

It was around this time last year that a Careers law was first mooted that would ensure that Vocational and Apprenticeship providers would have access to schools to provide guidance to pupils. At the time I blogged to point out that, if schools, Ofsted and the DfE were all performing the roles the Duty placed on them, then no further legislation was necessary and that any further law was an indication of failure of the system of statutory tools to lever change in a fragmented school system. This law founded with the failure of the Government’s wider “Education for all” Bill which hit the rocks of the Brexit vote, a reshuffle and opposition to forced academy status.

The past weeks have seen essentially competing proposed new legislation come into Parliament to cover CEIAG provision in schools. First up, was the “Baker clause” which is named after Lord Baker, who has used his position in the House of Lords to insert a clause into the Government’s technical and further education bill that would ensure that:

The proprietor of a school in England must ensure that there is an opportunity for a range of education and training providers to access registered pupils during the relevant phase of their education

The actual wording of the Bill (page 2, section 2) seems comprehensive. It places a requirement on schools to write and update and publicly available policy statement that sets out the circumstances under which vocational providers will be given access to students and for what reasons such requests could be refused. I would assume, that the writing of this statement and subsequent responding to requests would then be an administrative task for the school careers leader and line manager to manage. The bill is currently passing through the House of Lords before passing back to the Houses of Parliament for any amendments to be confirmed before Royal Assent. Lord Baker has more than a passing interest in this area as the leading proponent of the UTC school model which has experienced huge difficulties in recruitment of students at both 14 and 16 and been branded as failing by Micheal Gove. That brought a forthright response from Baker but he is clear about the need to ensure recruitment (and so subsequent per pupil funding) is much easier for his Headteachers. Baker foresees his clause forcing schools to hold career events (read: fairs) to allow Vocational providers to speak to students at key recruitment times throughout the academic year.

Just a few days later, this was followed by a ten minute rule Bill from the Labour MP Nic Dakin also legislating for access to secondary school pupils from Vocational providers. Dakin said that his Bill would go further than Baker’s as:

My Bill will ensure that school pupils have access to information from the providers of post-16 pathways locally direct to them. It will require schools in England to provide access to their premises and pupils for post-16 education establishments and other providers.

The wording of the actual Bill isn’t clear on how this would be different and, at the time of writing, it has far further to travel through the legislation process until it becomes part of the Education Act 1997 and so law. This Bill does have more support from the wider FE sector than Baker’s clause and is not tainted by association of the accusation of only trying to save the struggling UTC brand so, perhaps, will gain wider support.

To further complicate matters, these competing acts of legislation coming on top of an already existing statutory duty will soon be joined by a new, overarching, Careers Strategy sometime in 2017.

As well as the complications arising from overlaying legislation, many Careers practitioners in schools will be raising their eyebrows at the problems this doesn’t solve. It doesn’t solve the funding issues, it doesn’t solve the capacity issues and, furthermore, the rhetoric around these Bills aligns access to vocational talks as the white knight, riding in to save school CEIAG provision.

 

 

 

The blame game

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

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

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

westminster-academy-dest

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

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

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

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

So here is that context:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nao-figure-4

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

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

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

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

  • is properly resourced with a stable funding system;

seem from another age entirely.

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