michael gove

CEIAG isn’t about letting the big business wolf through the door


I’m not a teacher so I’m not a member of a teaching (or any) Union so usually, while I’m aware of their valuable point of view on the UK education landscape, even their strikes haven’t affected me. The recent NUT action didn’t shut my school and, now that we’re in our 4th year of the Coalition Government, some members are becoming increasingly mystified about the direction of protest of their Union but mainly they don’t seem to have taken an interest in CEIAG in schools. That is until I saw some quotes from their Head of Education, Ros McNeil in this piece about Businesses running Careers workshops caught my eye.

The BAE scheme mentioned is a fantastic example of similar schemes run by companies for schools all over the country with the key elements of direct engagement with the employees, an introduction to jobs and areas of work perhaps the youngsters had very little realistic knowledge of and clear links to the lessons and curriculum they are studying to show the value of what they are learning.

The article itself can’t help but build a black and white picture that companies are suddenly filling the vacuum left by the loss of Connexions to suddenly get into schools to run workshops (many have been for years and continue to do so where the regional versions of Connexions are struggling on) and that, like Michael Gove’s simplistic take on the value of Careers workers, this has to be a ‘either or’ situation. Ms McNeil’s first point is a practical one on this theme that schools do need to consider:

“Schools just receive too much information from myriad companies and I think heads are feeling overwhelmed. It is almost impossible to navigate what is good for a school,” she says.

but one to which I’m duty bound to offer a solution.

Though it’s her second contribution that I’m concerned with:

McNeil would like to see a greater public debate about the role of companies in schools. The NUT sees employers “as key partners of schools”, McNeil says, but would have concerns if they were drawing up lesson materials. “If companies are producing curriculum resources and getting access to schools to have their brand known by schoolchildren and to be able to bring that angle in, I think we would have significant concerns about that.”

This concern about the ulterior motives of companies to spread their brand recognition has good intentions but is surely misguided. To begin with it shows a distinct lack of understanding of what is already happening in schools as lesson materials are already produced by companies and used by teachers and, in specialised cases like Studio Schools, the teachers are working with companies to design large parts of the curriculum but, centrally, it is the desire to protect children from the preying vultures of corporations that misses the point of CEIAG work by a country mile.

As much as you might want them to, schools don’t exist in sealable bubbles.

They deal with young minds who come from their environments and at the end of each day, send them back out into that society. Each and every lesson, teachers deal with young people that piggyback into the classroom the positives and negatives of their outside world experience be they the overseeing eyes of interested parents, the legacies of Snapchat bullying or the after effects of the energy drink they necked on the walk in. Any teacher that has seen the emotional crater left when confiscating an iPhone or some Beats headphones will know that brands and corporate messages are another important strand of these wider influences. Yet it is also naive to treat young people as merely consumers in training as there are popular cultural messages highly valued by them which have anti corporate messages or values.

The corporate world is the world they already inhabit, are already making decisions about and will have to work in throughout their lives. Surely one of the benefits of CEIAG is that by utilising companies in Career learning in schools we are taking control of how young people begin to learn and understand about the companies behind those brands and the difference between marketing and reality. We can have a say over how some of those early interactions take place and where the value of them is focused. CEIAG offers us the chance to fulfill exactly the regulatory role Ms McNeil wants. It is about young people learning how to take control of their own futures and not be purely powerless end users at the ebb and flow of the needs of business and the labour market. It offers them the chance to see the strings behind the puppet and become all the more powerful as a result. As Neil Carberry of the CBI puts it, “”Business and education are looking for the same thing: a young person who can navigate their way in the 21st century.” CEIAG is the map and compass we can give them.

#AskGove #Careers Education Select Committee 18/12/13

We knew it wouldn’t be pretty but we just didn’t know how ugly it would be. The Education Secretary’s complete lack of interest in Careers work in schools during his time in office always meant that a dedicated session on it as part of the #AskGove Education Select Committee (from around the 10.14am mark) would be like a child discovering Brussel Sprouts for the first time in slow motion but, at times, the plain disgust was even more apparent.

Pressed by the Chair Graham Stuart and ably quizzed by Ian Mearns, the Education Secretary refused to concede that the IAG service on offer to young people had gotten worse under his watch, that Careers Advisers where, in any way, part of the solution to the eternal business + education interface issue and even labelled Careers leaders as lobbyists who place self-interest above working solutions for children and talk “garbage.”

He rebuffed tentative suggestions that initial teacher training should include any careers input, minimised accusations of schools funneling students into Sixth Forms for funding purposes and dismissed any evidence of the dismal state of the current situation as pretty worthless.

He contended that the triumvirate of Destination Measures, Matthew Hancock’s Vision plan and breaking the employer/education boundaries would continue the improvement he believes is materializing in Careers.

At one point he contended that students are already making “better” choices not due to IAG but because of the performance table levers the Dfe had pulled and the Wolf Report recommendations they had acted upon. It should be said that he higher numbers of students taking traditional academic subjects that has resulted from this is a plus point. I have read and find much to agree with in the evidence that shows this is good for social mobility but Mr Gove…young people are individuals even within that more traditional curriculum who appreciate support and guidance. This isn’t a disagreement over the percentage of 14 years olds doing hairdressing.

Gove finished on an impassioned outline of the Department’s vision of improving the quality and quantity of employer interaction with students as the sole answer to better preparing young people for the decisions they must make and the hills they must climb, which to my mind, misses a vital part of the jigsaw.

Young people are interested in the world of work, they want to know more about the sheer variety and scale out there, they want to experience this world, try it out and see what feels right for them. They want to begin to grasp how they might fit into it, understand how what they’re learning now might help them open doors in the future and what those first rungs on the ladder might look like. They want to know how to behave and act in this wholly different world from education, discover and learn from the stories of people who have trodden this path before them and even hear of paths they never knew existed. The Dfe would seemingly like activities that fulfill all of those needs to be organised by schools. Well, perhaps they could even be organised by an approachable face in school, someone the young people know and can rely on as part of the school community. That person could enact the gauntlet of  activities from talks to tasters to work experience to workshops and, from time to time, could even find themselves answering questions from the students about local courses or opportunities, helping them organise inroads into employers they otherwise would not make, reminding them of application deadlines or even provide the occasional motivational nugget to spur them onto those distant goals.

Hey presto, suddenly, you’ve got something you didn’t sound much like you wanted today, a Careers Adviser.

Education Select Committee 18/12/2013: Careers tweets on the #AskGove Twitter hashtag

Ahead of an appearance in front of the Education Select Committee on the 18th December 2013, the Twitter hashtag #AskGove has been launched to source questions from the public for the Minister. Split into four categories

Submit your question via Twitter between 11am on Monday 09 December and 5pm on Thursday 12 December. Please add hashtags as below:

  • #AskGove#places (for questions on school places)

  • #AskGove#care (for questions on children’s social care)

  • #AskGove#careers (for questions on careers)

  • #AskGove (for other questions)

this is a great chance to put forward some direct questions to Michael Gove on the Department’s current Careers policy in schools.

At the time of writing here are some of the best questions in this category:

Make sure you get your questions and tweets in before the deadline using #AskGove and #Careers hashtags.

Careers guidance for young people: The impact of the new duty on schools – Education Committee Report – aka Graham Stuart says whoa there pickle

Published this morning is this report


from the Education Select Committee who, over a number of sessions, listened to the great and the good about what had happened to Careers services for young people since the demise of Connexions (which always seems to be followed with cries of “Boo! Hiss! Was rubbish!” these days) and the placement of a statutory duty on schools to acquire impartial careers advice for their students.

And, to get to the point, it’s a document with some very good bits. Some of the suggestions are what should have been put in place right from the start. There’s plenty of recommendations that I think would move careers advice forward in schools. It is clear about what is currently working and what isn’t and, in an all too rare quality from Government documents, it knows it’s stuff.

A few of the highlights

31.  The Government’s decision to transfer responsibility for careers guidance to schools is regrettable. 

It may be regrettable but it’s happened. The Report acknowledges this and quickly moves onto what should now be done to shore up the current mess.

46.  We commend the efforts made by some local authorities to support their schools in taking on the new duty, particularly by working with them to form consortia and partnerships to procure independent and impartial careers guidance. We recommend that the Government’s statutory guidance is strengthened to emphasise the benefits of this approach.

This is good in theory but won’t work in reality. Local Authorities and schools are currently picking their way through the political minefield left by the mass academisation of the secondary school system and there is much which both parties are unsure who is responsible for or who can intervene with what methods. Many Local Authorities are still unclear over their remit or responsibilities of intervention in academies which are falling below the GCSE floor standards or receiving poor Ofsted inspections. If the two groups are still finding their feet with such basic responsibilities of local school governance as that, than careers IAG will have to wait.

56.  We note the disconnect between the Minister’s view of the role of Ofsted in enforcing accountability on schools through its inspection framework, and Ofsted’s own view. The limitations which Ofsted set out to us—the fact that its inspections do not make a clear judgement on careers guidance provision in schools, that it does not inspect against statutory compliance in this area and that it does not routinely inspect all schools—means that the Ofsted framework is not a credible accountability check on the provision of careers guidance by individual schools.

As they say on the internet – BOOM. This is a massively important point for me. All of this is just fluff if it isn’t regulated in any meaningful way and, currently, the Schools Regulator doesn’t think it should be regulating Careers IAG. But the Minister for Skills thinks they do. There needs to be a solution to this, el pronto.

59.  We conclude that destination measures as they currently stand are not effective for ensuring that schools meet their statutory duty.

Yep, agree with that too. It’s useful data for adapting in school practice and for parents to consider outcomes but it doesn’t answer all of the questions the Dfe want it to.

63.  We recommend that the Department for Education introduces into the statutory guidance a requirement for schools to publish an annual careers plan, to include information on the support and resources available to its pupils in planning their career development. Schools should be required to review the plan systematically on an annual basis, taking into account the views of students, parents, employers and other learning providers.

Monsieur Stuart, now you’re just showing off. I love that idea. Schools are now required to publish lots of specific policies and utilise ever spangly websites to do so. A Careers Plan would be easy to add to these and very worthwhile.

74.  We recommend that the remit of the National Careers Service is expanded to enable it to perform a capacity-building and brokerage role for schools. As part of its capacity-building role, the National Careers Service should work with individual schools in designing their annual careers plan of provision for careers guidance as well as provide schools with local labour market information. Clearly, this would have funding implications and so we further recommend that the Department of Education instructs the Skills Funding Agency to cost the options of the National Careers Service remit being expanded in this way. 

Fine, sensible suggestion. Many schools will find the Duty too much of a burden or consider that they do not have experience staff in the area so they will look to outsource and any expertise or impartiality in this area would be welcomed by schools. But there needs to be flexibility as well. Some schools or consortia of schools have reacted quickly to the Duty and put in place robust and interesting systems to embrace the opportunities on offer to their students. These schools shouldn’t be asked to restart again with a one size fits all model.

81.  Access to face-to-face guidance is an integral part of good quality careers guidance. All young people should have access to such provision from a qualified, independent provider, should they choose to take up the opportunity. We recommend that a minimum of one personal careers interview with an independent adviser who is not a teacher should be available for every young person and that this is made explicit in the statutory guidance.

Lovely stuff.

86.  Websites are a valuable source of information about careers for young people. They cannot, however, replace face-to-face guidance, nor are they sufficient in themselves to fulfil the requirement on schools to provide independent, impartial guidance. To ensure that schools do not over-rely on directing their students to websites, we recommend that the Department for Education amends the statutory guidance to schools to make it clear that the signposting of independent websites is insufficient to meet their statutory duty.

Even lovelier stuff!

93.  We welcome the Government’s support for the increased involvement of local employers in careers guidance in schools, which is vital for effective careers provision. We recommend that schools be required to set out in their careers plans their arrangements with local employers and how they intend to enhance them.

Schools wearing their links with local employers as a badge of honour is something I’ve blogged about before and will make more sense as Studio schools and University Technical Colleges expand and compete for students at KS4.

109.  The Government’s decision to remove the statutory duty on schools to provide careers education and work-related learning has been heavily criticised by witnesses to our inquiry. We are persuaded of the benefits of both these former provisions and we recommend that the Government’s statutory guidance to schools is strengthened to require schools to provide careers education and work-related learning as part of their duty. 

*Insert picture of me dancing for joy*

Now all that needs to happen is for the Dfe to listen and to implement. The ball is in Michael Gove’s court. 

Rachel Wolf has a vision for education – how would careers IAG fit into this?

On 2/12/12 the Public Accounts Committee sat in session taking evidence about the expenditure on the Dfe’s much vaunted Academies program. One of the main supporters and advocates of the Academies and Free School’s policy is Rachel Wolf, previously head of the New Schools Network who gave evidence to the panel. She spoke very succinctly and with great determination about her belief in the program’s mission to raise standards and the comparisons in possible organisational structures to the education system in the United States.

Her evidence can be found here:


Her vision of how the system will evolve over the next few years is clear.

 I would expect that in five years, you will have self-creating middle tiers, which are school chains. I think that within five years, there are going to be very few academies, and certainly free schools, across the country that are not in groups of schools

We know the Dfe is planning substantial cuts to its staffing numbers and is currently reorganising internally to best manage the demand, alongside it’s sub-department the Education Funding Agency, of thousands of Academies and Free Schools that no longer report or receive guidance from, a traditional middle tier of bureaucracy such as a Local Authority. Wolf sees monitoring and accountability at this level being replaced by the expansion of Chains or Federations of Academy providers. Currently Academies are run by larger charitable trusts who may oversee education establishments at all Key Stages. Wolf envisages these coagulating into larger chains of establishments who, through competition between brands and the strong threat of closure if baselines are not met, would improve outcomes.

In education circles, her views on how education should structure itself in the UK are well known but it was still gave me a jolt to hear them so soon after the recent Education Committee hearings on Careers IAG for young people.

Let’s imagine that future landscape that Wolf describes and how Careers work would fit into that.

Today’s starting point isn’t perfect. There are a multitude of providers open to students at each transition point of 16 or 18 which help offer choice through competition but this is still diluted through traditional and institutional promotion of the establishment’s own offer in the next key stage. It doesn’t happen 100% of the time but it happens enough that a Secretary of State very adverse to legislating rules for all did just that (with a slight twist of his arm admittedly).

So here’s some things I think would happen in this scenario:

1) Some chains would tie in employers to only working with their schools and colleges and offering exclusive apprenticeship routes for their students. There is already talk of the cash strapped FE sector closely working with specific employers to sponsor colleges. Current UTC’s proudly display their employer links on their promotional material and there is an increasing expectation on FE Colleges to provide clear routes into employment.

2) As a follow on from point 1 – Career guidance and marketing will become more intertwined as, where there are chances to input new student cohorts into the chain establishments, the promotion of employ-ability or HE destination statistics will be key

2) As an overall comparison method though, destination measures as a league table or yardstick measure for secondary schools will become pointless extremely quickly as students will only move from establishment to establishment within the chain. The movement for students between different chain establishments between at each transition point will be minimal (perhaps students moving home etc) as each chain protects its income streams.

3) Competitors who run alternative Sixth Forms or FE Colleges will not be permitted to promote their institution in schools run outside their parent chain. Local Authorities will stand in the background, wringing their hands over the lack of coherence in their area, but will be ultimately powerless. We have a Statutory Duty which is mostly ignored now by small, mostly self-reliant schools. Once they become part of a bigger chain, responsible for funneling a cohort each year into the next establishment to continue the funding, the Careers Duty will become a minor footnote in education policy.

4) Voucher systems might play a part in this. It’s a policy that is probably a long way away in this country but if the child/parents are giving the purchasing power of a voucher led system then the need for each chain (or brand) to be associated with “employ-ability” will accelerate at pace.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Micheal Gove said:

“only last week I was talking to Arne Duncan, the reappointed Secretary for Education in Barack Obama’s Administration, and he outlined to me how important it is that the two of us work together on a reform programme identical in every detail, to ensure that, however well we have done in the past, we do yet better in the future on behalf of all our children”

So, be under no illusion, this is the model that is coming and, without stringent, clear and monitored regulation, there are large difficulties for the world of Careers guidance within that model.