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The logical failure of the 2017 CBI Education & Skills Survey

Like any membership lobbying organisation, the CBI support their members to make them look as good as possible and promote the greater value of and worth of business to society. They have their work cut out, surveys show that the general public is distrustful with less than half believing British businesses act ethically, so their annual survey of business leaders (The CBI/Pearson Education & Skills Survey) is a chance to shift the focus elsewhere.

The 2017 iteration is drawn from an online questionnaire completed by 344 employers. (It is worth comparing at the outset this methodology against other recent employer surveys such as the recent DfE Employer perspective survey (which I blogged on here) which was drawn from telephone interviews with over 18,000 establishments across the labour market including non-profit organisations but more on that later).

The scale of employer engagement in education is an important topic with the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) tasked with expanding this work to improve CEIAG provision and so prove the research evidence of the benefits to be gained for students. Future qualification and pathway policy is also heavily geared towards gaining employer buy in and engagement. This means that establishing a base point of employer engagement is vital in judging progress and knowing where to target resources. The CEC has already made progress in this area with their Cold Spots research. Using a range of data points and sources, this shows that outcomes for young people (much like HE progression and academic achievement rates) varies greatly across the different regions of the UK.

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One of the data points used to model the amount of employer engagement is the UKCES Employer Perspectives Survey 2014. This is the preceding biannual release of the DfE Employer Perspective Survey mentioned above before the closure of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills in March 2017 which the DfE then took over.

That the CEC is using this data on employer engagement and not information published by the CBI is the first hint that the two sources on employer engagement tell very different tales.

The CBI survey offers useful views on the value business leaders places on their required skills from school leavers

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plus their satisfaction on school leaver skill levels

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and a plea for more young people to be speakers of foreign languages (page 34). The Employer Perspectives survey meanwhile does not break down employer satisfaction with school leavers into skill areas but by age of recruits (fig 3.7) so comparisons are difficult but, at all ages, it found employers were more satisfied than dissatisfied with the skill levels of their young recruits.

The survey begins to raise eyebrows though with the claims of employer engagement with education including the number of firms that offer work experience. Let’s remind ourselves what the 2017 Employer Perspectives Survey reported,

  • That 65% of employers thought that relevant work experience is a critical or significant factor when taking on a recruit but only 38% of employers had offered a work experience opportunity in the past 12 months
  • There is a huge variation between the sectors that offer work experience (fig 3.9)
  • Only 10% of employers offered work inspiration activities to students

This differs drastically to the findings of the CBI Survey that 81% of employers had some links with education

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and that these links were “extensive in all parts of the UK.” Not only is this claim widely divergent with the finding from a methodologically more detailed and comprehensive survey, it also undermines the very basis on which the CEC has prioritised its work across the country. Regarding employer links with education, the CBI says there are no cold spots.

The differences continue in the value of work experience with only 23% of businesses reporting that relevant work experience is an “important” factor when recruiting a young person (fig 2.1 pictured above) which is well below the 65% of employers reporting similar in the Employer Perspectives Survey. There is also a lack of consistency of expectations in the CBI results with employers also stating that 54% were not satisfied with school leavers relevant work experience (fig 2.3 pictured above). Why would employers be unsatisfied with something they’ve also deemed not important to recruitment?

The data on the types of provision employers offer through their links with schools is couched in a presentational sleight of hand as the percentages are offered as percentages of those business who have education links, not a percentage of the total businesses. Thus

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So the CBI is not claiming that 81% of employers provide careers advice talks but that 81% of the 81% with links to education provide careers advice talks. Because we have the total numbers of employers the CBI received responses from (344) we can work this back – 81% of 344 = 279, 81% of 279 = 225, 225 divided by 344 = the CBI is actually reporting that 65% of employers offer careers advice talks. The Employer Perspectives Survey concluded that just 10% of employers offer careers inspirations activities including careers talks.

The differences between the two surveys continue when discussing work experience. The CBI concludes (using the same method above) that around 63% of employers offer work experience placements. The Employer Perspectives Survey reported 38% of employers offered placements and that differences between industries can be stark.

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The CBI survey also includes business views on both the work of the CEC and the current state of CEIAG provision. They find that the CEC still has plenty of scope to increase their connections with business as only 7% of respondents were engaged with the Company.

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That 79% businesses were unaware of the work of the CEC is not surprising when you also consider that only 28% of employers are aware of the new GCSE grading system.

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The CBI though are wholly positive about the need and remit of the CEC

The CBI fully supports their work which has a focus on practical, enabling solutions.

and

Underpinned by sufficient resources, the CEC should play a major role in England in
supporting schools and businesses to develop productive relationships to the benefit of young people.

but the views of the businesses surveyed are extremely negative about the quality of CEIAG provision

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84% of businesses reporting that Careers advice is not good enough is an overwhelming verdict but also similar percentage to the four previous survey results show in 3.16. The CBI goes strong on its verdict on current Careers provision

These are seriously troubling results. They highlight the urgent need for radical improvement.

This all adds up to a muddled picture offered by the CBI.

They and the employers they surveyed are claiming that 81% of business have links with schools across the country, 65% offer careers advice talks and 63% offer work experience placements. This equates to a large-scale engagement with education yet, it is these same employers from whom 79% had not heard of the work of the CEC. It is from these same employers that less than a third were aware of the introduction of whole new GCSEs and grading systems. The same employers who are engaged with education to offer huge amounts of careers provision but 84% of them also reported unsatisfaction with the Careers advice offered. The solution offered by the CBI to change these views? More engagement with education through the CEC.

Establishing hard quantitative data on employer engagement is not easy as previous studies have shown. Using only limited survey data though can mean results with the failures of logic shown above. The CBI cannot continue to claim that the majority of employers are playing their part in provision only to then be overwhelmingly critical of the scale, quality and outcomes of that provision.

The outcome measures of the CEC

Now two years since it gained a Chief Executive and began to hire its network of staff, the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) released its 2nd Annual Round-up earlier this month. The report updates on the Company’s progress in expanding its networks of employer engagement and building it’s research base.

As with previous communications, the Round-up is a polished document full of the praises and progress the Company has made since it’s inception. I’ve posted previously on the difficulty on pinning the Company down on the exact numbers of Enterprise Advisers they have hired but this document does update an exact number.

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While, on the previous page, the less precise term is used for the number of schools enrolled in the scheme.

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If “more than” 1700 schools are signed up to the scheme does that mean that some schools are waiting for Enterprise Advisers to be matched with?

With the most recent DfE release showing that there are 3401 Secondary Schools and the AoC Key Facts showing 359 Further Education Colleges in England that means around 45% have now been paired with an Enterprise Adviser.

The Round Up continues to outline the progress and plans across four areas:

  1. Building local networks (Enterprise Advisers)
  2. Finding out what works (research)
  3. Backing proven ideas (investment funds)
  4. Providing online CEIAG resources (the Compass rating tool and the forthcoming Enterprise Passport)

Which are all full of detail on the admirable ambitions of the CEC. Much providence is given to the underlying research backing for this type of work provided by the studies from the Education & Employers Taskforce and the Gatsby Standards.

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This reliance on the evidence base is to be welcomed and the Taskforce is clear that quantity of engagements is vital to improved outcomes for young people.

  • Quantity matters: greater volume of school-mediated employer engagement is associated with better economic outcomes, demonstrating relationships between the number of school-mediated teenage engagements with employers recalled by young adults and significantly reduced incidence of being NEET.

What isn’t mentioned in the Round Up though is any judgement on the quality of those interactions which their networks have enabled. The Taskforce is also clear that this is a factor in the value of the outcomes achieved by young people

  • Quality matters: more highly regarded employer engagement is associated with better economic outcomes. Analysis presented here shows a consistent relationship between higher regard for school-mediated provision and adult economic outcomes.  It suggests that the instincts of young adults were right: that the schools had prepared them better than comparator peers. Wage premiums in excess of 20% are found linked to higher volumes of employer engagement activities described, in general terms, as having been helpful.

More provision matters but more provision students remember as being helpful really matters. Which shows that, as any practitioner who has run an event with a before & after student view questionnaire will know, evaluation of provision is a vital step in ongoing quality control. While this is something individual providers and organisations will (should) be doing to monitor their own impacts, it is not mentioned that the CEC is collating or monitoring this feedback.

This lack of information on the quality of provision is a hint at the lack of wider absence from the Round-up of outcomes for students, whether gleaned from qualitative or quantitative data.

In the announcement of its formation, the DfE said that the new Company would fulfill a number of remits including

  • provide feedback to government on how well young people are being prepared for work

This was expanded on by the then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who at an Education Select Committee appearance on the 9th September 2015, said the Company would be judged by “asking young people at the end of this academic and going forward, where they aware of all the options, when did they receive advice, who came into their school to tell them about all the options” and by asking employers “are young people more work ready, more aware of the options that are out there” and listening to employer feedback. In an answer to Ian Mearns MP, she then said that “more emphasis on destination data, tracking where pupils go” would be a key indicator. When asked if she would return to the Committee with evidence of progress from the CEC Morgan promised to return within the Parliament. Of course since September 2015 a lot of water has passed under the political bridge including Cabinet reshuffles, Brexit and a fluffed General Election. With, at the time of writing, a new Education Select Committee chair and membership waiting to be elected, one of the items in a hugely packed education sphere competing for attention from the Committee should be to ask for this promise to be followed up by Morgan’s successor.

There have also been questions in the House to the DfE Ministerial team about the progress of the CEC in meeting its remit. Firstly on 25th January 2016, Sam Gyimah fielded questions with the claim of “significant progress” as evidenced by the hiring of enterprise advisers, the launch of a fund and the forthcoming (then and still now) enterprise passport. There was also the promise of a Careers Strategy in the (for what it’s worth, ahem, still waiting) Spring to further assist schools in their work with the CEC. Again none of this includes monitoring or evaluating the outcomes of any of this work.

On 7th March 2016, Gyimah again took questions on the CEC and again claimed “excellent progress in opening up schools to the world of work.” As well as taking a swipe at Careers Advice, Gyimah promoted the CEC Mentoring scheme and that “every school will have an “Enterprise Adviser.” The session passed with no information on measuring outcomes for students.

The CEC has also appeared in front of MPs during a session of the Sub-Committee on Education Skills and the Economy on the 26th March 2016. With Sam Gyimah unable to attend because of illness, Claudia Harris (alongside Ofsted and the National Careers Service) took questions from a bunch of fairly unprepared MPs who had not heard of the CEC’s work on cold spots or on Government’s own research on employer engagement. The MP’s mainly focused on the “umbrella” work of the CEC to raise engagement provision in areas where this was not happening, on understanding the structural layout of the CEC and the National Careers Service and testing the potential overlaps between the two. Harris was asked about the quality assessment of the work of Enterprise Advisers and promised that schools and colleges will be surveyed on their views of the work of their Advisers. The most important question on the outcomes for students comes at 16.52 in the link above. Harris says the CEC will be measuring 3 outcomes:

  1. Penetration – the numbers of pupils and schools involved
  2. Satisfaction – asking schools if this provision is helping
  3. Impact – working from a baseline in every school, the CEC will monitor how provision has increased

Then Catherine McKinnell MP asks a vital follow-up question “Is there not a risk that there will be a focus on quantity rather than quality,” to which Harris offers

  1. A literature review conducted by the CEC looking at the effectiveness of mentoring as an employer engagement activity so directing funding what works
  2. A series of “deep dive” focus groups where representatives from the CEC will speak to students on their views of engagement provision they have attended and what help it offered them

The absence of two of the outcomes mentioned by Morgan in her session is noticeable. The omission of feedback from employers and student destination statistics is perhaps wise as these are outcome measures not wholly in the control of the CEC and those with conflicting data points with no clear definition from Government on what would be measured. Would a reduction in the of 16-19 NEETS be a plus mark for the CEC or a rise in employer satisfaction of school leaver skills be evidence of the impact of provision? And from which survey source would this be, those conducted by Government or those conducted by business? Or would the only satisfactory judgement be made by the sort of longitudinal research conducted by the Education & Employers Taskforce? This lack of clarity of definable targets continued in a further Committee session (27th April 2016) with the witnesses Nick Boles MP and Sam Gyimah MP where the conversation on quality monitoring of the CEC is sidetracked onto the Dfe Statutory Guidance.

Having to scour Select Committee archives for definitions of the student focused outcome measures of the CEC is indicative of the lack of clarity from the DfE around this issue. If we take Morgan’s comments (as the initalising Secretary of State) as gospel then achieving the tasks set of assuaging the concerns of business and reshaping destination statstics will be no mean feat for the CEC to achieve. Only today the CBI released it’s 2017 Annual Skills Survey. The results include businesses views on the workplace skills of school leavers

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with much to be improved upon and contained the fact that only 21% of businesses “are currently aware” of the activities of the CEC. The fear must be that this is a taskmaster who will never be satisfied.

The ultimate quality of the enabling and linking work the CEC delivers will be decided by those volunteers, staff and practitioners on the ground organising and running the face to face provision with young people. Through its short operating period so far, the CEC has focused on the growth of its structure and operations as evidence of its progress. Soon this attention should change though onto the impact of provision and student outcomes to evaluate that public investment committed to the Company.

 

Employer Perspectives Survey 2016

Preparing young people for the world of work is a task that cannot be attempted without the world of work on board. By offering advice and guidance or by actually getting their hands dirty and offering provision for schools and young people to engage with, employers have a vital role to play. Which is why large-scale surveys on employer engagement with young people, their views on the skills capabilities of young people as potential employees and their participation in (supposedly) youth employment routes such as apprenticeships can offer valuable insights.

I’ve posted before to show that surveys of this kind can throw up a wide range of results and that the strategic goals of the organisation behind the survey should always be born in mind. Plenty of previous surveys with smaller survey cohorts have been critical of the level of skills held by school leavers entering the workplace while the survey that, traditionally, has shown results much more positive regarding skills levels has been the UKCES biennial Employer Perspectives survey. After the closure of UKCES, the responsibility of running this survey has transferred to the DfE with support from BEiS and DwP and the 2016 results were published this week. As ever, it’s fascinating in its picture of the UK skills map and how CEIAG is working within that. It’s also worth noting that the scale of the survey is impressive with over 18,000 employers across the UK interviewed.

Firstly, employers are still mainly pleased with the prepardness of young people for work but that, percentage rates have fallen slightly since 2014 but these figures are still much higher than the usual doom and gloom of other reports. It is also the case that, in the eyes of employers, older education leavers are still more preparded for the challenges of the workplace.

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It is in other sections of the report that there are some startling headline figures (page 13):

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The gap between employers expectation for young people to have work experience on their CV and those actually offering work experience placements is still huge. It’s also clear that the parts of the labour market most closely working with young people are those offering the most placements. As anybody who has run a work experience scheme in a school knows, placements are schools are easy to come by and colleagues will do their utmost to help while placements in more sort after industries are gold dust.

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For all of their initiatives such as Open Doors, the amount of placements offered by the Construction industry is woefully short of what is needed.

This picture of weak engagement is also apparent in the number of employers involved in work inspiration activities other than placements with, again, Construction a particularly poor performing area.

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It’s clear that getting involved with such provision is proving more difficult for smaller firms and reasons why employers do not offer placements was collected

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Being aware of these and the more positive reasons for offering placements (doing our bit, Corporate Social Responsibility policy, a recruitment strategy – page 70) and tailoring your approaches to employers when requesting placements should be a strategy for all schools and colleges.

Overall these figures are in stark contrast to the far more positive picture of employer engagement painted by employer bodies such as the CBI. Their assertion that “over 80% of employers work with schools”  is, frankly, risible in comparison and shows the task ahead of the Careers & Enterprise company when scaling up their engagement initiatives.

Elsewhere in the Survey findings are other nuggets of interest. At the time of writing, Apprenticeship policy in the UK is in a state of flux as the official position is still to create 3 million apprenticeships over the course of the parliament but the ongoing changes to Levy and Standards policy are causing fluctuations in the numbers of vacancies being advertised.

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The (slow) rise in the number of employers taking on apprentices is encouraging but this growth needs to accelerate if this route is to become a realistic competitor to Higher Education for young people. The future plans of employers (page 155), if enacted, would correlate to a rise of 21% of employers offering apprenticeships within the next 12 months but the Conclusions section states (from page 159) that a much greater engagement from employers with apprenticeships is needed to meet current targets.

Allied to this point is the data regarding the recruitment methods used by firms when hiring young people. The results are clear on the importance and of social capital and networks and the advantages gained by young people entering the job market with these benefits. Alongside more formal methods of applying for work, contacts can still be key and this evidence fits with published research in this area.

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It shows that, despite the scale of the task ahead of them, the work of the CEC is vital and needed. In Conclusion the Survey states (page 160)

Developing forms of work experience and work inspiration that genuinely respond to employers’ needs to develop and access experienced new recruits continues to offer potential as a step in improving individuals’ entry to the labour market

and it is the solution to this issue that the CEC must find.

Good practice in organising work experience placements

It’s easy to forget that, below the headline announcements and big speeches, Government departments are usually just chugging away with administrating policy, managing change and commissioning and learning (hopefully) from research. A recent (March 2017) 148 page research report by the NatCen Social Research and SQW was published by the DfE entitled “Work experience and related activities in schools and colleges” whose aim was “to consider current provision and operational practice of work-related activities at schools and colleges in England.” Which isn’t really what it does, for it only really focuses on work experience provision and pays scant regard to other kinds of employe engagement.

Based on the results of over 700 survey responses and 278 interviews (all conducted in the 2016 Summer term) the report paints a picture of what methods schools and employers make use of and which they struggle with when planning, sourcing and organising work experience placements. (The report covers this process in both schools and Further Education Colleges but it’s the work with Pre 16 students that I will concentrate on here) It is full of interesting data regarding participation of students and barriers some perceive to taking up placements, how schools prepare students for placements, quality control of those placements and evaluate the impact on students post placement.

This all results in is a good practice guide that can help practitioners to offer effective work experience schemes

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and a recommendation to the DfE

Despite widespread acceptance of the importance of work-related activities in preparing young people for the world of work, and some common agreement about what constituted good practice, it was noted that the absence of clear guidance from the Department for Education in relation to work-related learning pre-16, meant that it was not always prioritised (whether in the curriculum or in staffing). The absence of guidance was felt to be particularly impactful when governors/ senior leaders needed to be persuaded of the benefits of delivering a structured programme of work-related activities. Detailed guidance related to pre-16 provision, therefore, is to be welcomed

which, I would imagine, is a plea that would be welcomed by CEIAG practitioners in schools.

Throughout, the report is full of interesting titbits, some of which caught my eye were:

  • Funding constraints are restricting school work in this area

It was felt that, in order to support an expansion of work related activities at a time when school and college budgets were tight, additional (central) funding was required

  • Employers are keen for placements to be longer than one week
  • Work experience is still the most common form of employer engagement offered by schools at KS4

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  • 66% of respondents send students out on placements in the Summer term and 86% organise block placements rather than separate days.
  • The most popular reason for timing of placements is to fit around programmes of learning 55% which suggests schools are not being flexible to the needs of employers or learners when planning such provision.
  • 24% report that “not finding enough placements” is the largest reason for not all students accessing placements while “lack of confidence” (89%) and “fear of the unknown” (81%) where the biggest challenges to students taking up placements which shows how important the personal support practitioners offer their students in the build up to placements is.
  • That some sectors of employment are clearly failing to find ways to offer enough placements to meet demand as schools report common difficulties (% of respondents reporting employment sectors where it was difficult to find placements)

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  • That concerns around health and safety and insurance are still holding employers back from offering placements
  • That schools are working with a range of organisations to help source placements

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(although note the low % working with Enterprise Advisers through the Careers & Enterprise Company is likely due to the Summer 2016 date of the survey when the organisation was much newer)

  • That far too few schools spend any time following up with employers post placements to provide feedback or assess how the placement went (% of schools who undertook follow activities with employers)

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The report also looks at the rationale and reasoning for running a work experience scheme in the first place and it is cheering to see the range of impacts and employers that schools believe such provision can have on young people, which makes the practical barriers that do exist when organising KS4 placements all the more frustrating.

Knowing what CEIAG works: The #EEinETconf

It’s rare that I get out to large-scale conferences due to school commitments and cost but I was very fortunate last week to be able to attend the joint Edge Foundation & Education & Employers Taskforce International Conference on Employer Engagement in Education & Training. This was mostly due to the pricing of the early bird tickets for the two-day event which, frankly, put the cost of other big conferences in this area to shame.

For a careers geek like me, both days were full of superbly interesting stuff. Of course, the keynote sessions from the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher and Harvard’s Robert Schwartz took the biggest rooms but it was some of the breakout presentations that I found the most fascinating.

Previous research by the Education & Employers Taskforce has already helped shaped the current policy thinking in careers work in schools. Their use of longitudinal and survey data shows a consistent trend in the worth of employer interaction in a student’s future success (example 1 & example 2) in the labour market. The impact those wage gain headline figures can have on the views of policymakers has been obvious with the foundation of the Careers & Enterprise Company to help facilitate these kind of interactions. (In fact, a continuing theme across the Conference was the need for academics to present the headlines of their research in short, catchy bullet points for busy Ministerial eyes).

Two of the sessions in particular focused on summary type academic research projects, that is research which combines and compares findings from other studies. One of these was the launch of an International Literature Review on Careers Education by Deirdre Hughes and Dr Anthony Mann. I’ve blogged about this work previously.

The second session was an overview of work carried out by the team at the Education & Employers Taskforce looking at academic literature which “explores the relationship between adult economic outcomes and teenage school mediated work related experiences and attitudes.”

Some of the outcomes of the individual studies covered are fascinating in their own right

 

for the insight into the benefits students gain from the sort of provision school CEIAG practitioners are organising every term but it is in the collation and comparison of the outcomes found such as in these two pieces of work that real benefits will be found. The larger the number of studies collated and compared, the more obvious outliers will be and the more robust the findings for the beneficial outcomes of each type of CEIAG provision. As the Powerpoint from Mann, Kashefpakdel & McKeown says in the penultimate slide (and I hoped for in my previous post), this work should result in a toolkit for practitioners to use in the Autumn. At a time when budget holders are under increasing pressure to spend their scarce resources wisely, toolkits which clearly show “bang for your buck” that is, the expected outcomes for specific interventions (especially for more disadvantaged learners), are almost vital. Knowing what works is always beneficial for galvanising practitioners but being to show what works is extremely important for negotiating time and resources from budget holders to actually enact that provision.

The whole two-day conference was full of insights into different provision and approaches to employer engagement in education but it was these two presentations that showed just how close we are to quantifying the benefits to learners of each item on the school CEIAG menu.

Some kind of bliss – on timing for Careers reports

Today saw (yet another) report on Careers work in school added to the library of publications released on the matter. The sub-Committee on Education, Skills & the Economy published a report on the findings of it’s inquiry into the state of CEIAG in schools.  The recommendations and conclusions within retread old ground of those previously recommended by Education Select Committees and takes a lot of direction from the report du jour, the Gatsby Foundation report on Careers.

Some of those detailed recommendations make sense, for example:

We invite the Government, in its response, to set out a comprehensive plan for improving destination data, including the timescales for doing so. This plan should include steps to make the data available in a more timely way and to ensure that they cover a longer period of time, and give more details on how the data will draw on information held by other Government departments. The Government should also consider how best to present its destination data, to mitigate the risk that schools are judged primarily on the number of their students going onto higher education.

 

We recommend that the Government, in its careers strategy, take steps to simplify the delivery of its careers policy at the national level. It should put a single Minister and a single Department in charge of co-ordinating careers provision for all ages, and set out how it plans to rationalise the number of Government-funded organisations delivering careers programmes.

 

We recommend that the Government work with employers and schools to produce a plan to ensure that all students at Key Stage 4 have the opportunity to take part in meaningful work experience.

all get a big thumbs up from me.

Other points such as for the Careers & Enterprise Company to take on the “inspiration agenda” work of the National Careers Service might be good strategic ideas but, as an end facilitator of that provision, I’m more concerned that high quality provision is on offer. How the email invites actually make their way to my inbox doesn’t bother me.

What does concern me though is the sheer unfortunate timing of the whole report and seemingly oblivious to external factors the report (actually written on the 29th June) is.

Firstly the report is published in the post-Brexit maelstrom. We currently have a barely functioning Parliament as both main parties are gripped in their own internal struggles. Getting traction from Ministers caught up promoting their favoured candidates in the Conservative Leadership election will be difficult before the summer recess and, with a General Election a possible blot on the horizon (and so a new Education Secretary) not likely after. If Brexit can scupper an entire White Paper, what hope a report from a sub-committee? Will the report be championed by the opposition? Well, it would need a quick grasp of a new brief from a new Shadow Education MP only a few days into her role after the previous incumbent lasted two days.

The aftershock of the Brexit vote on Government business cannot be underestimated. The Institute for Government rates the Life Chances Strategy (of which the Careers & Enterprise Company is a component) as “delayed” and highly dependent on whoever takes the Tory leadership crown.

Another iceberg in the way of traction is the Chilcot report on the Iraq War. Released the day after the sub-Committee Careers report, it is sure to consume news headlines and, already hard pressed, Parliamentary focus.

Then there is the reliance in the report on Ofsted to monitor CEIAG provision in schools which doesn’t appear to quite realise what’s happening to Ofsted.

We recommend that Ofsted introduce a specific judgment on careers information, advice and guidance for secondary schools, and set clear criteria for making these judgments. The Common Inspection Framework should be amended to make clear that a secondary school whose careers provision is judged as “requires improvement” or “inadequate” cannot be judged to be “outstanding” overall; likewise, a secondary school should be unable to receive an overall judgment of “good” if its careers provision is judged to be “inadequate”.

For context, this academic year has seen a sharp fall in the number of schools Ofsted is actually inspecting due, in part, to a new “targeted” inspection framework. One goal of a “self improving system” is to have this more targeted Inspectorate but the £31m funding “black hole” Ofsted faces over the next four years will drive the inspection framework just as much. Add to this the appointment of a new Chief Inspector from 2017 who will have her own views and priorities and it becomes concerning that relying on an Office for Standards without resources to monitor those standards perhaps isn’t the most effective driver of then improving those standards.

Back in 1997, Kylie Minogue released a track called “Some Kind of Bliss” as the opening to a new direction in her career. An expensive video was shot, indie credibility from the Manic Street Preachers brought in and a whole promotional blitz was planned. Then, on the Sunday before, Princess Diana died, the country had a collective weep and went out in their millions and brought Elton John instead. Kylie’s dalliance with indie was consigned to the musical dustbin. Releasing reports designed to improve CEIAG in the wake of the Brexit vote will have as much impact as when an Australian pop princesses tried to grab onto Britpop’s vanishing coat tails.

The C.R.E.A.M of CEIAG

As, it seems very likely they will, those Gatsby benchmarks form the foundation of the forthcoming new Careers strategy to be published post EuroRef I thought I would make a preemptive point on a black hole that might appear.

For those of you cool (ahem) enough to get the reference in the blog title, you will have realised that the hole to which I refer is one of funding.

The CDI are confident in their predictions for the Gatsby benchmarks taking a core role and, in a recent news update to members (and in a comment on this blog) set out their requests from Government for funding to follow to enable schools to progress towards these benchmarks by achieving a Quality Award.

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In my opinion, whether funding dedicated for (further) assessment of provision rather than funding for actual provision would help schools do this is debatable and even necessary at all with both the forthcoming launch of an online Gatsby Benchmarking tool and the rise of the use of evidence to inform effective careers provision. If what works is what works and schools can see what works, a greater weight of assessment of provision should be on actual student outcomes rather than quality assessment and funding should be dedicated towards provision, not quality assessment of that provision. Again, this is only my view and there are experienced voices who disagree.

What is interesting though is not just that the CDI are asking for ringfenced funding which, in a post acadamised landscape, is a request that would be difficult to account for, but also the value of that funding.

The Gatbsy report which set out their benchmarks also set out the costings for achieving a level of careers provision which would schools to meet those benchmarks. The report (aided by the expertise of PriceWaterhouseCoopers no less) calculated

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There are around 3381 secondary schools in England, so 1st year funding alone to meet those benchmarks would be over £181m. That’s a substantial amount of money and, as the CDI themselves noted in their response to the Educational Select Committee

Schools have been allocated no additional funding to take on responsibility for a service that previously cost local authorities £200 million per annum to provide.

when pointing out the loss of Connexions. The starting point seems to be then that this £181m will come from existing school budgets. They go onto say though

We accept that in the current economic climate we cannot expect an immediate return to this level of resourcing, but we do suggest that schools should be given some financial support to put in place careers support of a sufficiently high quality. A short-term development grant, linked to a requirement to gain a quality award, would offer an approach that has been shown to work in other settings.

Th figure allocated to this in the email is £1500 per school a year, or £5.71m for all secondary schools. A figure widely short of the Gatsby requirements and, when you remember that Careers Quality awards cost around £1600, a figure that wouldn’t even cover the cost of provision assessment let alone leave any funding for provision.

It is noticeable though how this is a specific request alongside an un-costed request for CPD “investment.” The call for CPD support is something other bodies with an interest in CEIAG echo but those bodies have also been making unspecified demands for funding for provision.

The position of the National Association of Headteachers is that “more legislation isn’t the answer” and is seeking the restoration of full funding for CEIAG.

The National Union of Teachers calls for “funding for professional development and resources for teachers in all schools, particularly in light of schools’ responsibilities for careers education, and advice” and for local authorities to be funded to rebuild careers advisory services lost due to cuts.

In their submission to the Select Committee, the NASUWT point out

In particular, careers and work-related learning and IAG services have declined substantially or, in some cases, have disappeared entirely as a result of significant and ongoing reductions in public investment in this area since May 2010

but don’t go into detail on how much funding they think would be necessary to restore a quality level of provision.

The ATL, meanwhile, called for funding for CEIAG specialists so that schools can meet their statutory responsibilities.

All of those demands, while lacking in substance, would require more funding from the Government who, for their part, would no doubt point towards their announcement of £70m towards mentors, enterprise passports and the Careers & Enterprise Company as offering a funding commitment. While though this should strengthen services on offer to schools to help meet some of the Gatsby benchmarks, none of this money will go directly to schools to enhance provision to meet either the statutory duty or the benchmarks and, again, is well below the total cost outlined in the Gatsby report.

Politics is the art of the possible” is a quote which has stood the test of time so there may be sense in the CDI asking for smaller funding levels tied to an easily measurable outcome from the Government. It certainly offers a clearly defined “win” for any Minister brave enough to find the money to support it. While it may succeed in gaining a positive response it will still leave schools short of funding to provide what is being asked of them. Asking for schools to be judged on the quality of their provision while simultaneously asking for the benchmarks of that provision to raised without the funds to back this leaves CEIAG departments in school facing an act of miracle making. If the new strategy does cherry pick the detailed benchmarks of quality provision as defined by Gatsby then it should not be forgotten that this provision comes with a funding cost of implementing it.