Conservative party

Karren Brady & walking the walk on public services

It’s a truth that any nationwide structural improvement in the offer of Careers Education Information Advice & Guidance for school children is going to need to the fundamental support of employers and the business community. Clearly that has been acknowledged by the early work of the Careers & Enterprise Company as they have built a network of Enterprise Coordinators and Advisers and positioned themselves as a professional facing organisation.

Practitioners know that the networks needed for this work are built through finding gatekeepers in other companies with shared goals, working on achievable projects and, sometimes, through being complimentary

to help build a positive image of engaging with education. There are times though when this flattery seems like an easy public relations win glossing over past actions that are not in the spirit of great public concern.

Karren Brady (Baroness Brady CBE) is a regular media contributor to the national debate on the transition of young people into the world of work

sometimes calling out companies for not offering quality work experience but also offering opinions

“One of the biggest challenges employers face is that school-leavers are simply not ready for work. They lack even basic soft skills like confidence, engagement, conduct and punctuality.”

(that do not reflect business survey data)

skills report7

and offering advice to young people on how to be well prepared for the world of work via stakeholders such as Barclays LifeSkills.

Her day job though is Vice-Chair of West Ham Football Club, owned by two majority shareholders David Sullivan and David Gold. In was in this capacity that, in 2016, she completed the negotiations of the “deal of the century” with the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) for West Ham to move into the ex-Olympic stadium for a 99 year period. This was the result of a tortured and controversial bidding process. The stadium, after a £272m conversion to be suitable to host both football and other events, cost the taxpayer at the time of the deal £701m. In a complicated deal that includes further add-ons if the club is sold, reductions in fees if the club is relegated and splits of hospitality income and upkeep costs, the bare bones were that West Ham would pay a £15m upfront fee and £2.5m a year in rent. Costs continued to rise for the taxpayer even after the deal was agreed due to further conversion complications.

I have previously calculated that, for every secondary school in England to be funded in line with the costs determined by the Gatsby report, £181m would need to be found each academic year.

Warning: extremely simplified accounting follows:

£701m – £15m, – £5m (rent for 16/17 & 17/18 seasons) = £681m

£681m divided by £181m = 3.76 academic years worth of Gatsby standard careers provision the West Ham deal currently removed from the public purse.

Of course, this is not a cut and dried case. Many pointed fingers at the time at the LLDC for negotiating such a one-sided deal for the taxpayer and the continuing losses that mount up. Others blamed West Ham for taking advantage of the public purse, especially when the revenues of Premier League clubs have never been healthier.

Brady had previously, as a Conservative Peer, voted through Tax Credit cuts for working families and promoted the party line that Labour were profligate with public money (both on Twitter and in person at the 2013 Conservative Party Conference)

while then leading a negotiation that resulted in the taxpayer covering some huge financial losses while the business she advocated for, gained a substantial commercial asset.

Employer engagement is a vital part of Careers work and employers should be congratulated and encouraged to get involved with building the skills of the next generation. What this sort of community work should not be treated as though is a way of keeping up a positive profile while at the same time taking business decisions which do not aid the wider community. This is not a zero sum, either or, game, plenty of Careers practitioners will be working with colleagues from business who not only dedicate time to helping young people but also lead their business with an ethical mindset, the EY Foundation being just one example of the sort of work organisations such as Business in the Community want to encourage. Supporting the Public Sector prepare young people for the world of work is more than just an afternoon at a speed dating interview event.

 

 

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Halfon’s barmy apprenticeship idea

Individual MP’s are perceived differently by members of the public, some work hard to even be noticed, some work hard on their public persona and some just work hard. One MP who I usually place in the last of those categories is the ex Education Minister Robert Halfon. Not being a constituent of his, my perception of his work was mostly formed by seeing his tenacious but effective style on the BBC documentary, Inside the Commons and his work as Minister of State for Skills July 2016 – June 2017. His recent election to the position of Chair of the Education Select Committee shows both his interest to remain at the centre of the education policy process and his ability to get the support of his fellow MPs.

At the recent Conservative Party conference, Halfon appeared with his Skills Ministerial successor, Anne Milton, at fringe event entitled, “Lost Learners: Delivering a skills revolution and providing opportunities for all” in which he suggested that

“We should look at things like the pupil premium and whether or not certain parts of it can be based or dependent on how many students they get, especially from deprived backgrounds, to go into high-quality apprenticeships,”

and that this would be part of a “carrot and stick” approach to improving the breadth of  careers advice on offer schools.

Let’s make no bones about it, this is an extremely bad idea. Lots of bad ideas will be floated at fringe conference events of all parties but that this came from the chair of the Education Select Committee is what makes it noteworthy. Previous holders of that post, particularly Graham Stuart MP, who championed and challenged Careers provision in schools while in the role, were much more judicious in their public offerings on Government policy.

This is a bad idea for a number of reasons.

1.

As I’ve covered (it feels exhaustively over the years), there are not apprenticeship vacancies to fulfil the demand from young people.

In 2016/17

over a quarter of a million 16-18 year olds are making over 900,000 applications, going up against 262,970 other 18+ applicants for 169, 290 apprenticeship vacancies

And that’s the number of total apprenticeships, if Halfon means by “high quality” those at the higher levels and (usually) pay scales then the opportunities on offer are even further away from fulfilling demand.

apprenticeship vacancies by level

With Higher and Advanced level apprenticeship vacancies totalling 44,930 or 26.5% of the total number of apprenticeship vacancies in 16/17. There were over 1.5 million 15-18 year olds in English schools last academic year. If the ratio of students to vacancies is so high, then Halfon’s suggestion would lead to schools losing pupil premium money no matter the quality of CEIAG on offer.

2.

Pupil Premium is becoming a core budget stream for schools.

As detailed in this House of Commons library Briefing Paper, Pupil Premium now equals different funding amounts for pupils dependant on their age and personal circumstances. In total though, the funding is worth £2.5bn each academic year to English schools. Surveys report that around a third of heads are having to use their Pupil Premium funds to cover other costs in school, not purely for closing the attainment gaps between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, and it is the schools from the most disadvantaged areas most often affected. This would mean that the schools having to work hardest to propel their pupils along Halfon’s own “ladder of opportunity” metaphor would be the most affected by any cut in Pupil Premium funding dependant on employment outcomes. This would make it even harder for future cohorts of those schools to provide provision and so positive outcomes.

3.

The proportion of pupils claiming Free School Meals (and so receiving Pupil Premium funding for their school) is falling.

free-school-meals-graph

Pupils do not automatically receive FSM, they (their parents/guardians) have to apply. Only those who have applied are used to calculate a school’s Pupil Premium funding so it is in the schools interests to encourage as many eligible pupils as possible to apply but not all do. Uptake is also linked to other factors, eligibility for FSM can be dependant on income related benefits which, as the linked article above points out, means that Government changes to benefit eligibility have a knock on effect. Larger scale changes such as Universal Credit can be introduced without their consequences on reliant funding streams being fully determined. These are factors which all influence a school’s pupil premium funding before any CEIAG provision to help a student gain an apprenticeship has even taken place.

Monitoring and reporting on a school’s CEIAG provision and including actual destination data of that school’s students in that monitoring are all sensible levers for policy makers to pull to build up CEIAG focus and provision in schools. Policy makers should use data rather than anecdote to form policy and conclude that to increase the numbers of young people securing apprenticeship vacancies there needs to be more vacancies and young people need funded, dedicated support to have the skills and experience to successfully apply for them. Suggesting that a school’s funding be removed if it’s pupils do not secure rare and highly sought after routes would make the job even harder for the schools who find this most difficult already. It is a baffling proposition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your #GE2017 CEIAG manifesto roundup

imagevaulthandler-aspx

One year after the European referendum and two years after the last General Election you would’ve thought that the British public had earned a summer off from electioneering and yet here we are. The build up to #GE2017 is well underway.

At the time of writing the three main parties have all now released their manifestos so here’s quick summary of what they include in regard to CEIAG. I will update with any inclusions of CEIAG in the manifestos of other parties as and when I see them.

Conservatives

You can find the whole manifesto here, a Schools Week summary of the school policies here and an FE Week summary of the skills and technical education policies here.

CEIAG does not get a specific mention in the policy. Plenty of the school, Apprenticeship, HE and FE policies will impact on the work of CEIAG practitioners (not least the UCAS style portal for technical education mooted in the tweet above) but nothing in regards to Careers Advice in schools or the continuing work of the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC). Considering the organisation was set up under a Conservative Education Secretary, and that the party is by far the favourite to win a majority in the Election, this would raise concerns over the long-term future of the organisation beyond its current funding commitment.

The Labour Party

CEIAG gets two specific mentions in the Labour Party Manifesto.

Both are less than forthcoming about the details behind the promises. A campaign to spread the message about “creative” careers is very different to the STEM focused campaigns of the last few years. How this campaign and the wider improvement would be achieved, what structures, guidance or funding it would involve are all left to the imagination. Again no specific mention of employer engagement or the work of the CEC. You can find a summary of the wider schools policies here.

The Liberal Democrats

Along similar lines to the Labour commitments, the Lib Dem manifesto  offers one pledge to “improve” careers advice for young people and one with a more focused detail. The Lib Dems plump for STEM promotion while the links between employers and schools mention is an easy win as it only requires the work of the CEC to be continued for it to be achieved. Again, how this improvement will be achieved or what it would cost are not mentioned.

Manifestos are tricky documents that walk a fine line between detail on commitments and broader scene setting of the kind of country you wish voters to aspire to. It’s heartening that CEIAG is at least mentioned in the Labour and Lib Dem offerings while the omission from the Conservative document is a sign of the treatment of the sector in the most recent and Coalition parliaments. Will it also be a sign of the health of the sector under the forthcoming Goverment?

If you haven’t registered to vote, you can do so here: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote until midnight on the 22nd May. Please do so, your voice counts.

UPDATE – May 25th

UKIP

Today The United Kingdom Independence Party have released their manifesto which contains, comparatively, quite a substantive section on CEIAG

Introducing “practical employability lessons into the careers’ syllabus” sounds good until you remember that there isn’t a “careers syllabus” so it would be tricky to add something to it. It’s nice to see the list of soft skills but not so nice to see the provincialism of the “local job market” focus. CEIAG should take into account local Labour Market Intelligence but it should also expand horizons beyond the well known. A quick Google to test the claim “Entrepreneurship education is becoming increasingly common in the USA” throws up research which does bear this out but it is not explained why the USA is used as the benchmark as their overall education performance is below average. Much there already happens either through local partnerships or more formalised networks such as the CEC, the mention of a “careers syllabus” could be taken as a formal promise to reinstate statutory Careers education yet the mechanisms for achieving this in a Academy driven system (with opt outs from an National Curriculum) are not included.

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.

chart

 

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.