When a report about a report might be a good thing

If there’s one thing the world of school CEIAG doesn’t need, it’s another report into the failures of school CEIAG. So when “Year 11 student’s views of Career Education and Work Experience” from Kings College London turned up in the week, I was a little nonplussed. Though, on further examination and when follow up news later came, it seemed to me that this report might warrant greater attention.

Firstly, this is no small scale survey with little in the way of statistical controls and a PR axe to grind that sometimes grab the headlines. These are the findings of the Aspires 2 longitudinal 5 year study which includes results culled from views of over 13,000 Year 11s. Subsequently, there are lots of interesting nuggets in the document on young people’s views and experiences of CEIAG

kings college report 1

but it’s the findings on the discrepancy in careers support for those students from disadvantaged backgrounds compared to the average that might have the greatest impact.

Social Class: Students from less advantaged social backgrounds (with lower levels of cultural capital) Findings receive significantly less careers education and report being less satisfied – students from the most advantaged backgrounds are significantly more likely to receive careers education. For instance, a student with very high cultural capital is 1.49 times more like to receive careers education compared to a student with very low cultural capital.

(Btw – All careers practitioners should take a look at the conclusions of the report even if just to recentre and remind ourselves to ensure that students from across the background spectrum should be included in our work.)

Ultimately though, the findings wouldn’t shock too many of us careers folk working with young people. When you close a large scale State intervention (Connexions) and leave the market to plan the unfunded provision left it turns out that it’s the easier wins that get won. Huh, who knew.

The follow up to this report came swiftly with the news that the Education Endowment Foundation will look into, “the current state of careers education and identify the most effective ways to provide this service.” The work will be carried out by Dr Deidre Hughes and Dr Anthony Mann of the Education & Employers Taskforce. Now, usually at this point my “policy wonk” patience limit would have been reached as, rather than actually enact some change, all we had was news of another report. Yet, it’s the possibilities of this forthcoming work which hold some hope.

Government departments, just like schools, in tight financial times, want to know what works and what bang for your buck you’re going to get from each intervention. CEIAG work has a growing evidence base to show worth across it’s different forms be that employer engagement or career guidance but what this work actually looks like in schools is less clear. Frameworks try to define this and guidance can include best practice case studies but this still can leave school leaders unclear about what this work looks like in their institutions. Compare those to publications such as the EEF’s Teaching & Learning  toolkit which clearly sets out costs, evidence strength and impact to learners for each type of provision. School leaders welcome this sort of clarity, “More than half of secondary school leaders now say they use the Toolkit.” Imagine a similar tool for CEIAG interventions showing just how much worth a careers fair vs an employer visit vs a mentoring scheme vs face to face guidance vs an enterprise day has. Maybe it would make schools focus on what really works in CEIAG. Perhaps it would force practitioners, including myself, to reflect on our own practice and alter our own programmes to focus on interventions with the most impact not just to do what we’ve always done because “it fits.” It could even help position careers work to be seen by schools leaders not as an add on, but as an intervention they can deploy to help disadvantaged learners just like any other they currently do. Presented and communicated well to school leaders, this forthcoming report could be a real positive for careers work in schools.




The need, next steps and purpose of #NCW2015

This year’s National Careers week promises to be a fantastic celebration of guidance work and an opportunity for young people up and down the country to experience some wonderful career related events. From the central organisers there will be much promotion of a wide range of career areas during the themed days and a wealth of freely available resources that will help any CEIAG practitioner. From CEIAG and youth engagement folk in businesses, schools and colleges there will be the last-minute stresses of best laid plans clicking into gear as displays go up, visitors sign into reception, coaches arrive at the school gates and children are corralled into rooms not normally on their timetable.

The coverage gained by these events will help spread an important message among all levels and stages of educational and business communities; that CEIAG is a vital tool in building employable, confident, aspirational young learners better prepared to take their next steps in learning, work and training. The week will be spectacular, the hard work of the ambassadors will ensure that, but for CEIAG work in schools to prosper, the real test of the impact of NCW2015 will be in the weeks and months beyond the 2nd -6th March. The real reward will be all that happens beyond those five days of loud PR noise. For many CEIAG practitioners in schools or even like-minded teaching staff, the traction offered by NCW2015 will be a godsend. A real opportunity for their cash strapped and time constrained Senior Leaders to actually see the visceral enjoyment and positive feedback from young people participating in well run and well-managed career events. A starting point for further work, for building a growing careers program that stretches its web across the curriculum of the school and that is not just seen as an “add on” or something that is constrained to one week on the academic calendar.

The contradiction at the heart of National Careers Week is that, it exists because of the very struggle to mainstream CEIAG in schools and colleges. In my presentation at David Andrews’ conference I included a slide referencing the drip, drip versus drop methods of careers program delivery and how, it is the wider conditions of support and ethos in a school that will dictate the path of least resistance to a practitioner organising events. Either in small nuggets throughout the academic year or in large drops of off timetable days or whole school events. The very highlighting of “Careers” in a specific week shows how marginalised it can be. Of course, many causes and topics utilise the idea of a promotional period of time to raise awareness and hope to effect a snowballing of change (March will also squeeze in National Apprenticeship week and British Science week) but this can have downsides as well as positives.

Now, of course (I feel silly even having to type this exemplification but, this is the internet so…) I’m not comparing the cause of embedding CEIAG in schools with the struggle of an entire race against centuries of racist oppression but…there’s something in the wider message of Mr Freeman there about taking the PR short-cut. If we want great CEIAG to be the norm, then lets stop making it the unusual. But that isn’t the job of the folk behind NCW2015. Given the current state of  the sector, they’ve given us the push, the ignition key, the job of school leaders and CEIAG practitioners is to use that momentum and run with it beyond that one week and make every week we can in school into a “Careers week.”

Young people, CEIAG and the 2015 Election

As we continue to steam roll into 2015 I wanted to take a look at how CEIAG might play a part in, what will no doubt be, one of the biggest events of the year; the General Election. #GE2015. Indecision 2015. However it will come to be termed, current polling suggests the 2015 election promises to be a muddle of epic proportions as the first past the post system grinds to a halt of probable coalition in the face of general voter distrust of elected members and entrenched division between areas of the country.

CEIAG as an area of state provision covers multiple policy issues that politicians hope people consider when deciding their vote. Education and employability skills, job availability and opportunities for promotion, the wider economy and social mobility would be all areas of policy advocates would say CEIAG would impact positively. To what extent careers education and guidance is in voter’s minds when they are expressing satisfaction or concern about any of those issues is open to debate (none to minimal, I would guess) but, if I take for granted that I’m preaching to the converted on the importance of CEIAG, I thought it would be interesting to see where it might align with voter’s concerns and how this is influencing politicians.

Of course, the school age client group where most of the recent focus on the lack of careers provision has come are too young to vote. Even with Labour’s promise to lower the voting age to 16, 2015 is a battle that will shape their future but in which they will have no say. Even so, all parties know that Education is an important policy area for parents and so have obfuscated their funding plans for this area behind terms (Tory: “the cash sum that follows your child into the school will not be cut” Labour: “The next Labour government will protect the overall education budget“) that they hope will woo votes but in reality both these Conservative and Labour pledges equate to a cut in funding. When reports are clearly stating that improving CEIAG will need increased funding, this isn’t a good start.

We do know that parents are increasingly keen for their children to stay in education Post 16 (fig 4.4)

parents post 16 intentions


so policies that improve the chances of making successful transitions at 16 would be welcomed by those with voting power.

Overall though, it appears that the parents surveyed there do have different priorities to younger generations. The “grey vote” is focussed on

The current NHS crisis appears to be a key concern for older people as 86% said that politicians should be focussing on health and social care. 79% of over-55s highlighted tackling terrorism, compared to 69% who want political leaders to focus on the economy. Concerns surrounding pensions and savings were highlighted by 51% of those surveyed.

It’s very different for younger people


The high priority those in the 18-25 age bracket place on issues such as living costs, unemployment, the gap between the rich and poor and tuition fees shows that the transition from education to employment and those tricky first steps into the labour market play heavy on their mind. To those struggling to make headway in a post 2008 jobs market, the media’s political obsessions of the EU and immigration must seem like concerns from a different world.

As this age group are the recent and soon to be leavers from full-time and higher education they should be, in theory, those most able to access a structured CEIAG offer. Support that addresses their concerns, you would imagine, would be welcomed by this cohort.

That does not automatically mean though that politicians will be writing their manifestos with these concerns at the top of their promise list. Young people are notoriously reticent to actually vote compared to older demographics who do so in far greater numbers.



It’s estimated that around 3 million youth votes are either undecided or up for grabs this time around and polling from that age group shows a significant shift in the parties they would vote for.

But even if all of these potential younger voters did tick a box in May, as the linked Telegraph article above notes,

According to the ONS, there are 5.9 million people aged between 18 and 24. But there are 11.1 million people aged 65 and over.

Yes, old people are more likely to vote. But there are also lots more of them. And since democracy often comes down to a numbers game, it will take more than increased turnout among the young to end the political dominance of the old. Sorry, kids.

so it might not be enough to force their concerns to suddenly be addressed with any greater urgency.

Which all clearly explains why policies such as triple lock pensions, pensioner bonds and universal pensioner benefits such as the Winter Fuel Allowance are political no go areas when cuts are being discussed by the Conservatives. It’s frankly staggering then that the YouGov/Anchor Trust polling quoted above also shows that only 13% of grey voters think politicians represent their views.

The two parties that the younger demographics are putting their support behind have so far made, what would be called at best, tentative proposals for policies under the CEIAG umbrella. Labour has indicated that it would reintroduce mandatory key stage 4 work experience and Tristram Hunt has included his wish to improve careers advice in speeches. The education policies of the Green Party meanwhile include no mention of careers advice and the transition from education to work is only covered with more general ideals such as the need for clear vocational routes at 14 and their desire for much greater life long learning opportunities.

The incumbent parties meanwhile have their own projects in this policy area. The Conservatives plan to expand the Apprenticeship program but will cut both wider and targeted benefits for 18-21 year olds to fund it. Considering how the numbers of current Apprenticeships have skewed towards older workers, the net £ loss to this age group would probably be larger than the initial reading of the headline suggests. Tories would also point to the new Careers company that will be up and running in spring 2015 as evidence of their plans for CEIAG over the next parliament. For the Lib Dems, the ongoing funding of £2.5 billion for the pupil premium will take centre stage of their offer for education.

With the meat on the bones of the party manifestos still to come, all of this leaves CEIAG in a forlorn place. As a policy area, it offers possible links and solutions to issues that mostly concern voters who don’t vote and, even if they did, it’s likely that any intergenerational battle for political supremacy would be won by the sheer number of older folk. You might conclude then that any interested parties who believed that any substantial investment in CEIAG could be a solution to the issues young people see as facing them, have a huge job of persuasion on their hands: to convince older voters to not just vote on their own concerns.

Is CEIAG in schools about to get its own “middle tier”?

A significant shift of Education policy for schools will be in place, ready to go, from September 2014. Eight Regional School Commissioners each supported by their Headteacher Boards will be in place ready to support and challenge under performance of academy schools in their area. Whatever your political views on the rehashing of roles traditionally carried out by locally accountable Local Authorities, this is a significant step-change in policy from the “freedom for all” mantra that accompanied the splurge of academy school conversions in the early days of the Coalition Government and, seemingly, an acknowledgement that 1000’s of schools cannot be monitored and supported by an office of civil servants based in Whitehall without the introduction of a much called for Middle Tier.

This recognition of a need for a more local touch to school provision to encourage, maintain and grow good practice could be about to seep over into careers work in schools.

Just before the summer holiday the DfE released a written submission to the Education Select Committee who are due to hold a follow-up evidence session about their Careers Guidance inquiry with the SoS for Education in the Autumn. The document is a step by step reiteration of Government policy towards CEIAG scattered with references and links to put forward the message that things are slowly improving as schools grow into the expectations placed upon them but it also contains a few hints of more changes to come. Not least that, from October 2014, the role of the National Careers Service and it’s work with schools will be drastically remodeled.

National careers service

I am posting about this now as today I saw a job advertised that would be tasked with carrying out this new role for the Service. The job description for the role is an insight into not just what responsibilities this role will fill but also hints at how these “Careers Inspiration Managers” (official title or just a company invention?) would jigsaw together across the country working with schools in their areas. There is much that a school Careers Co-ordinator might welcome from the role such as the mentions of increasing the spread of clear Labour Market Intelligence and a clearer, more direct route to local CEIAG events with strong employer inputs. The things that would give me a pause though are the requirements to establish what schools are already doing (which in reality means more paperwork!) and this bullet point:

To work with the Business Development Director to identify new business opportunities for Futures within the Careers Inspiration agenda

which leads me to believe that at least some of the activities offered will come with either a standard monetary charge for schools or a pupil by pupil cost (or perhaps just accompanied by marketing to buy in the firm’s face to face IAG offer). If it is the case that it will be a cost per activity, then many schools will be hesitant about involving themselves with these offers.

There are also many references to working closely with the local Local Enterprise Partnership and, as the service provider, Futures, is based in Nottingham, I assume this refers to D2N2LEP. In my own experience the interaction between LEPs and school careers advisers has been severely lacking so this could be a welcome method for addressing the need to disseminate the local area skills needs and business priorities into schools. There is though, no indication that the Inspiration Managers patch will align with the LEP so, if not, how many Inspiration Managers will be working with each LEP? Will Managers have to work with more than one LEP? How will this all coagulate with the responsibilities Local Authorities still hold? Until the details of the new expectations on the NCS are released in the Autumn, there are still explanations to come on how this new structure will work in practice.

How Ofsted will inspect Careers IAG in schools from September 2014

2015 Update here:


Things never stand still. Especially in education and especially over the last 4 years.

It has been almost a year since I published this post on how, the then newly published, Ofsted handbook instructed inspectors to evaluate a school’s CEIAG provision during Section 5 inspections in the 2013/14 academic year and, carrying on the flow of change, today Ofsted have released an updated handbook (PDF) to guide inspectors during their work in schools in the 2014/15 academic year. CEIAG is still included in the Leadership and Management section but the wording has (as has for most areas  in this new, truncated edition) changed.

So, Ofsted inspectors in 2014/15 will be primed to look for (page 43):

154. Inspectors should explore:
 the extent to which the school has developed and implemented a
strategy for ensuring that all pupils in Years 8 to 13 receive effective
careers guidance
 the impact of this guidance in helping young people to make
informed choices about their next steps
 how well the school meets the needs of all vulnerable groups of
pupils, including reducing the numbers who do not continue to
education, employment or training
 how well the school works with families to support them in
overcoming the cultural obstacles that often stand in the way of the
most able pupils from deprived backgrounds attending university.

A few points to note:

  • “Inspectors should explore” means they won’t just be talking to the Professionals in the school, I would still expect them to ask students their views on the quality of the CEIAG they have received.
  • “The impact of this guidance” could mean that, in your Ofsted box of evidence, it might be handy to have not just Destination data but case studies of students who have made successful transitions after attending tasters, visits, workshops etc
  • The focus on NEETS is pretty clear

So far, so good but there are a couple of things I take issue with:

  • There isn’t a hyperlink to the Careers Statutory Guidance in the document. Minor quibble but it would’ve been better to wave it under inspector’s noses a bit.
  • “overcoming the cultural obstacles that often stand in the way of the most able pupils from deprived backgrounds attending university”…Not a Apprenticeship but University. Oh dear, parity of routes?
  • There is no mention of CEIAG in the Grade Descriptors for Leadership and Management section from page 49. So a school’s CEIAG provision should be checked to see if it is outstanding or terrible or anywhere in-between but it seems this will have no impact on the actual grade awarded for this section and so, the overall grade.

And that’s it for the main school guidance. Until you get to Page 79 as this year, after consultation, Ofsted will offer a separate grade for a school’s Sixth Form provision and so has equipped inspectors with a dedicated section in the handbook for this. The relevant CEIAG paragraph reads:

The school provides good, impartial careers education, information, advice and
guidance prior to starting post-16 courses. Students are aware of their choices
following completion of their post-16 study programme.

“Impartiality” gets a specific here which would require some questions to be asked of current Sixth Form students by inspectors while, I would imagine, for schools without Sixth Forms like mine, this would be subsumed into checks on the first bullet point in the whole school guidance above.

With regard to CEIAG, last year’s handbook had a tricky task of bolting on a whole new area for inspectors to check into already stuffed schedules for inspection teams in schools and this years probably has just as difficult a job to achieve. While the Careers Statutory Guidance has expanded, the Ofsted handbook has been slimmed down  so the complexity of the requirements and suggestions in the Guidance does seem a little lost in translation and leaves greater room for, depending on your point of view, either schools to be able to tell their individualized CEIAG back-stories to inspectors or allow a greater lack of consistency in judgments.

School Governors and the CEIAG statutory duty

September 2014 Update: https://fecareersiag.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/updated-sept-2014-school-governors-and-the-ceiag-statutory-duty/

In the interest of completeness and to attempt to put all of the relevant guidance on this blog, here is the mention of Careers guidance in the School Governors’ Handbook updated in January 2014.


(page 38)

3.2 Careers guidance
Maintained schools must secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance
on the full range of education or training options, including apprenticeships. This
requirement applies to pupils in years 8-13. Funding agreements for academies which
opened from September 2012 onwards generally include an equivalent careers
requirement. We have written to all academies which opened before September 2012 to
encourage them to take on the requirement. The governing body must reassure itself that
the requirement to secure careers guidance from an external source, in the form that best
meets the needs of their pupils, is being met. Schools must have regard to statutory
guiance (sic) underpinning the duty, which makes it clear that links with employers are
particularly important in securing careers provision that inspires young people to consider
a broader range of options.

The oversight that Governors give to their schools work in this area fits with the inclusion of the Ofsted focus on Careers in the Quality of Leadership and Management section of their inspections and places the onus on Careers Leaders in schools and their nominated Governors to meet at appropriate times in the academic year to discuss  and evaluate provision and outcomes (those destinations stats).

Driving Change in 14-19 Education #capitaconf Presentation

Here is the presentation myself and my colleague Jo gave today at the “Driving Change in 14-19 Education” Capita conference.



(link if the embed doesn’t load)

I hope that we got across our overall message, that any school, with the right conditions, support and drive, can deliver great CEIAG provision for their students.