further education

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.

The stories told and not told by school Destination data

A common theme throughout all of the recent commentary on the state of CEIAG in schools has been that the publication of Destination statistics for all schools is a ‘good thing.’ In the modern world, the argument goes, transparency of outcomes for schools should not just rely on qualifications gained by students but on the stability and suitability of the progress those students then make in their first steps beyond the school gates.

With this in mind I wanted to post something concentrating purely on the Destination Data of my own school’s leavers to show how this does and does not offer insight when looking at figures on a school size level.

I’ll be using 4 sets of Destination data to give some context.

Firstly, there is the data currently on the DfE performance tables website. This relates to our 2009/10 leavers.

Second, is the data for the 2010/2011 cohort that is due to be published on the performance table site in June.

So, what to notice between those two? The trend in our numbers to FE seem to be falling while the numbers to Sixth Form College are rising, Apprenticeships are steady and “Destinations not sustained” are falling. The FE and Sixth Form trends have the biggest swing in numbers so could tell the story of a more definitive trajectory. The Apprenticeships and Not Sustained numbers are pleasing but I’m wary of hanging out the bunting because, as you can see from the second table, the numbers of students involved are small. One or two students either way and those percentages alter significantly.

A hugely important factor to bear in mind is that this data is based not on a snapshot but on an extended time period. As the guidance tells us Participation is determined as enrollment for “the first two terms (defined as October to March) of the year after the young person left KS4″ and not sustained destinations are defined as  “young people who had participated at an education destination during the academic year but did not complete the required six months participation.” There is much to commend on the longer term measurement being used here which does more thoroughly test a school’s CEIAG legwork to suitably place their students post KS4. A negative consequence of this more considered approach though is the sheer amount of time that has to be allowed before publication to let the students travel through the system. The most recent set of data above covers students who left us 3 years ago. 3 years can be a lifetime of change in a school with new initiatives, new curriculum, staff turnover, Leadership changes, new priorities and events so to use this to judge that school in the here and now seems to be a little redundant.

The third set of data for our 2011/2012 cohort is from our Local Authority, who, alongside their Youth Service partners, work their way through enrollment lists, phone calls and house visits to get all of the stats which the DfE then utilise in future.

The first thing to notice is that some of the Destination terms are not the same. This immediately causes issues in comparison. Compared to the first two sets of data, the trend away from FE routes and towards Sixth Form (not differentiated between School Sixth Form and Sixth Form College here) reduces but continues. The NEET category (not known in the DfE data) is pleasing again (with the same caveat as above) while the Part Time Education numbers are odd and appear towards the larger end of the local spread (more about this below) but they lead to another concern; any conclusions we draw are only as sound as the data collection and entry job that went before them.

The biggest difference in the data sets is that the Local Authority data is a snap shot taken on the 1st of November 2012, just a few short weeks after the GCSE results. If published then, the immediacy of this data could provide interested parties such as Ofsted or parents much more reactive numbers on which to judge local secondary schools but this immediacy could also cause problems. Any snap measurement could offer a warped view of a reality that would produce very different data if captured on a different date (were the statistics exactly the same on the 2nd of November?) and perhaps not highlight gradual drop out as those learners went through the first term of their KS5 routes. To combat this and to show trends the Authority repeat the exercise in the following April with the same year group and the results of this follow up snapshot for the 2012 leavers are in the columns on the right below.

Clearly the largest change between the November and April is the Part time Education number now reads zero and the number of Apprenticeships has jumped by the same number to 12. How much of this change can be attributed to data entry decisions or to the steady progress of our leavers securing Apprenticeships in the year school would only be known to those with local knowledge of our alumni. It’s a tale not told in the stats.

So, what can we learn from all this data?

1) The considered publication timeframe on the DfE performance tables has both good and bad sides for judging school performance

2) When you drill down to school level, the numbers of actual students involved moving from category to category can be small enough so that only a few students fluctuating between them can significantly impact the percentages

and that

3) Trends in destination growth or reduction for different routes can only be properly identified with multiple data sets over a longer period

If Ofsted and stakeholders such as parents are to get the most out of Destination data in its current form, a considered and measured view and a desire to understand the stories behind the figures really will be required.

 

Send your examples of Careers best practice into Matthew Hancock

In a recent letter to Chairs of Learning Providers and FE Colleges (4th April 2014) Skills Minister Matthew Hancock gave an update on the numerous changes happening across the sector. Attached to the letter was a briefing for FE Governors and, on page 7 of this briefing under a title of Careers/Inspiration, is a request for examples of good practice in Careers work to be emailed to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.

Many organisations are
already doing important work in this area and there has been a high level of success and
positive impact being achieved by those we have spoken to. In order to find out more,
share successes and inspire more people to get involved in delivering this vision we
would like you to send us examples of good practice. These might be examples from
your own organisation or other organisations, web links, case studies, or a couple of
lines in an email that we can follow-up. Please send your responses to
inspirationvision@bis.gsi.gov.uk.

The paragraph references the Inspiration Vision Statement published by the Department in September alongside the disappointing results of the Ofsted Careers survey. I assume that whatever submissions they receive will add to the data they collected from phone surveys in February 2014 and from some longer, more in-depth interviews I know they have also been conducting about school + employer collaboration to help shape the forthcoming revised Careers guidance (edit – not gonna happen as the revised Guidance was released the very day after this post) and the Department’s future policy in this area. So, get emailing your examples of good practice!

Checking the small print for FE College Study Programmes

A seemingly massive change to 16-19 education is due to arrive with the new term in September. The outcomes of Alison Wolf’s recommendations for students starting this stage of their education will have seen Further Education Colleges and Sixth Forms working hard over the past 12 months to finalise their plans for Study Programmes.

http://www.education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/youngpeople/qandlearning/programmes

This will see students study an approved set of substantial qualifications, for longer hours, with options for work experience and employability skill learning and if appropriate, a continuation of English & Maths study until required levels are met.

What this will look like in reality has been illuminated by a number of case studies collected by the Association of Colleges

http://www.aoc.co.uk/en/policy-and-advice/14-19/study-programmes.cfm

and some of the work here should make Careers practitioners hearts sing as it puts solid Career and Employability learning closer to the heart of this period of education.

Such fantastic work and such fundamental changes to the structure of their provision would surely be something these Colleges would be eager to promote to their potential customer base right?

Barking & Dagenham College

All students will work towards an employability qualification and, where relevant, English & Maths qualifications. All students will undertake a minimum of 36 hours work experience and complete a log of their learning activities which will be an online log from 13/14

Their prospectus

http://www.barkingdagenhamcollege.ac.uk/en/Getting-on-a-course/order-a-course-guide.cfm

(online version on the right of the page)

makes no mention of these substantial parts of a student’s learning at all (but you get a free breakfast!).

Middlesbrough College

All students will study 34 hours of the “Skills 21” programme consisting of employability, enterprise and personal development learning. This programme will be delivered by a dedicated tutor team.

In their prospectus

http://www.mbro.ac.uk/Home/PDF/FTguide13.pdf

some of the course pages indicate that a work placement must be undertaken as part of the course and, on page 7, there is one sentence saying “there is a strong focus on enterprise activities.”

Bolton College

Plans for all students to continue their English & Maths learning offering progression from their GCSE results. In some subject areas and for students with different qualification levels this will taught in stand alone sessions, but for others such as Level 3 students. this will be folded into the subject curriculum.

Their prospectus

http://www.boltoncollege.ac.uk/sites/boltoncollege.ac.uk/files/user_uploads/aspire/2012/index.html

clearly states on page 11 that English & Maths are part of the study programme for all students aged 16-19.

Just from these 3 examples from the case studies we can see the different approaches the FE sector has been taking to informing potential students about what they would exactly be studying should they enrol.

Those of us advising young people about their Post 16 options rely heavily on Prospectuses to inform conversations with both students and parents. The detail included in them about Study Programmes and the impact these courses will have on a potential learners experience of the College are at the nub where marketing meets IAG. I would wager that most College marketing teams are wary of including too much detail for fear of “putting off” potential applicants who would balk at the prospect of further English & Maths study or extra work on top of their chosen course and skim over it in promotion material.

Perhaps, over the next few years, Colleges will be more comfortable with how the programmes will run in practice and so more willing to sing their praises as part of their marketing efforts. In the meantime, school careers advisers will be left telling slightly skeptical learners and parents that, yes, if you don’t get your ‘C’ in your GCSE English, you will have to retake it no matter what course you do at College.

In the meantime, a vacuum of clear information leaves learners stepping into a Post 16 course which might include surprises for some of them.

Luton Destination Statistics: Where are our students going?

Recently, lots of destination statistics for school leavers have been published by the Dfe. The stats focus on two sets on data, those learners who left education at Key Stage 4 (end of Year 11) and Key Stage 5 (end of 13) in 2010.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/destinations-of-key-stage-4-and-key-stage-5-pupils-2010-to-2011

Added to that, the same data can now be viewed as part of a school’s profile on the Dfe performance tables website.

Here are the Luton tables:

http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/schools/performance/group.pl?qtype=GR&f=nfzLImlWaf&superview=sec&view=pupdest&sort=l.schname&ord=asc&no=998&pg=1

Now, trainspotters confession here, this stuff FASCINATES me. Particularly on a local level as you can see the impact the personalities of different institutions have on the mindsets and outcomes of their leavers and you can fairly quickly identify where good practice is flourishing in the town.

So here’s my take on the figures to look out for:

LUTON WIDE

The big singing point here is the massive % of learners now going onto any Higher Education Institution from Luton. 61% puts us 9th out of all Local Authorities and is a testament to the fantastic work throughout the education establishments in the town. In fact this figure has the potential to increase even higher as the Barnfield Federation offer more HE routes and local learners find access to such courses even more convenient. The picture isn’t completely rosy though with only 5% of leavers going onto Russell Group Universities and there is scope for improvement here for our IAG work throughout the Key Stages. Meanwhile at KS4 only 5% of leavers are continuing their education in school Sixth Forms which reflects the largely 11-16 tradition of the town with two big FE institutions in Luton Sixth Form and Barnfield College. The NEET figure of 2% (that is the number of learners who spent between 3-6 months from October to March out of Education, Employment or Training) is low compared to nearby Authorities.

KS5

With only 3 providers exiting students at KS5 is fairly easy to draw distinct comparisons between them. Luton Sixth Form far outstrips it’s neighbors for sending students onto Higher Education with 70% choosing this route but it only ties with Cardinal Newman for students going onto Russell Group Universities with 6%. As Newman has a much lower number of leavers, this shows that the school based Sixth Form is getting a much higher ratio of leavers into these highly competitive institutions. It would unfair to include Barnfield in that comparison as the vast majority of their qualification routes are not suitable for Russell Group entry but it is noticeable that 22% of their leavers are not even included in the statistics as this data was not known or could not be traced.

The figures that did strike me were the very low % of leavers from all institutions that went onto Apprenticeships. These figures will be slightly misleading as some learners will be under going an Apprenticeship while at Barnfield but even so, with the rise in the number of Apprenticeships, especially for older learners, I was expecting these figures to be higher.

KS4

It’s no surprise that two of the highest three schools for the % of students going onto a Further Education College are the two Barnfield Academies. Not all of these leavers will be going to Barnfield College (West’s proximity to Central Bedfordshire College should impact here) but their close sponsorship links with the College are bound to influence leavers choice of routes. It’s also no surprise that the school with the biggest % moving to a school Sixth Form is Cardinal Newman, the only school in the town (at the time) with an established school Sixth Form.

Seeing just how large a % of their students Denbigh, Challney Boys and Challney Girls send onto Sixth Form College is an eye opener for me. I’ve always know it was substantial just not that substantial. There are many reasons for this, not least the outstanding GCSE pass rates those schools achieve thus opening A Level routes for their students, but another factor will be that the intake of those schools is mainly from ethnic minority communities (for all 3 their percentage of students on roll for whom English is not their first language is above 88%) who (sweeping generalisaion alert) value and expect their children to inspire to traditional professions that require the academic qualifications only historically offered by Luton Sixth Form. It will be interesting to see how those percentages change with the growth of the Barnfield Sixth Form offer thus increasing the choice of school based Sixth Form route. It is also worth noting the that figures for the % of Apprenticeship leavers from Challney Girls is suppressed as it was so small it could have breached confidentiality reflecting the desire for traditional routes.

The Apprenticeship percentages across the schools in the town are fairly consistent with my own school tied for the biggest % of leavers taking this route and all of us would be looking to increase student’s awareness of this area.

The last set of figures to note is the “Education destination not sustained” column. It’s clear the school to aspire to here is Icknield High. Having only 3% of the largest total cohort of leavers fail to sustain their learning in a suitable pathway is a fantastic achievement and one I will be looking to learn from.

After saying all of that it’s worth noting though that these figures are not full proof; they are a snapshot and with any picture of a period of time they will not show the how picture. This point is neatly summed up by Brian Lightman here:

http://www.ascl.org.uk/News_views/press_releases/destination_data_should_only_be_published_when_is_accurate_complete

and it is worth bearing in mind when you consider them.