Micheal Gove

Being part of Nicky’s package

In recent years an appearance by the Secretary of State in front of the Education Select Committee has always proved engrossing viewing not least the few times careers in schools was mentioned. The craters of destruction left by Mrs Morgan’s predecessor in front of the Committee on this subject have left many a pothole for her to stumble into so I can’t imagine last weeks session was an enticing date in the diary.

Ably handed by (a sometimes visibly exasperated) Graham Stuart, the session covered the DfE’s plans on the problems the new Careers company would solve (all of them apparently) and what problems would still be outside of its remit. The role of accountability and getting Destination Measures right loomed large, the conflict of interest caused by funding following those Post 16 bums and the role of those ever inspiring business leaders all appeared as seems to be now the norm in debates about school careers. In truth it was all a much of a muchness as Morgan said pleasant things about all the different players and parts of the school careers hotpot without actually committing to do anything differently. Indeed, the lukewarm platitudes on offer almost left me pining for Gove’s scorched earth splutter of disdain at the very mention of careers work. However misguided, at least it was a position arrived at with conviction.

The nugget in the session that the watching journalists found most newsworthy was the anecdote that some schools are now asking their receptionists to deliver careers advice. This was picked up by the BBC and the Independent as both a damming indictment of the lack of mandatory of quality standards required by the DfE and the lip service schools are seemingly paying to this work.

Alex Cunningham, the Labour MP for Stockton South, said public service union Unison had undertaken research which showed that 83 per cent of schools no longer employed professional careers advisers or teachers. The role, he added, had been “picked up by people including, in many cases, teaching assistants and other support staff who are totally ill-equipped”.

Graham Stuart, the committee’s Conservative chairman, said he had received evidence that one of the new University Technical Colleges – which specialise in vocational education for 14- to 19-year-olds – was training its receptionist to be their careers adviser “while running the reception”.

This contrast between the warm words from Morgan and the reality of decisions being made by schools is a contradiction that echoes the timelines of other education policies from the Coalition. At first freedom for schools, then criticism of provision and then the carrot/stick of new accountability measures to realign the actions taken by schools with the outcomes desired by Government. If Destination data is done right and the accountability of leavers sustained outcomes firmly included in a school’s evaluation by both the general public and Ofsted, in my view, it would go a long way to focusing school leaders efforts into providing a quality careers offer in their establishment. It wouldn’t be the whole solution, brokerage, funding, quality CPD and coherent local and national networks would all have a role to play but this view, of placing the accountability ahead of mandated standards to lead change, does seem different to other views I’ve seen on-line. It’s one based in the realism that, just because schools are told to do something, it doesn’t mean they then do it and that changing accountability measures have made distinct changes to school behaviour in the recent past.

(Incidentally, how Morgan’s claims that Destination data is getting more robust as “just 2% of the cohort were not captured in the data” fits with the statistic used by Ofsted’s Lorna Fitzjohn in her recent FE annual lecture that in some Local Authorities up to 40% of young people’s destination is unknown, I’m not sure).

Those who wish to defend and enhance the professional stature of the sector were clear that policy makers should assign prominence to careers practitioners as a panacea for the ills of the sector. The reporting of the belittling of the role of a school careers adviser seemed, to me, an exercise in finger-pointing that misses those other parts of the jigsaw I’ve mentioned above. Those support staff delivering careers programs to young people might not currently hold the relevant standard of professionalism to gain the immediate seal of approval from the sector but that doesn’t mean they won’t become brilliant careers advisers who then go onto to be trained by their school to a suitable professional standard. It doesn’t mean that, through their endeavour and determination to fulfil their careers duties well, they show the school the benefits of doing careers work properly. I hope we are not sneering at them because their immediate professional background was a receptionist or a teaching assistant but because of fears that they are being asked to fit careers work around other duties. Across the wider sector even teachers can become qualified while doing the job; certification and ‘professionalism’ don’t have to be gatekeepers, they are staging points on the journey then travelled. Of course, for this scenario to be a tale with a positive outcome the school would then be required to play it’s part in up-skilling their employee by providing resources for CPD and quality provision. That’s more likely with welcoming, persuasive and accessible offers of support and training from the national careers bodies.

Being a stickler for professional school careers appointments fails to acknowledge the wider realities of funding constraints and the lack of importance in the accountability system that isn’t leading to oven ready roles that match an ideal of professionalism. It is by far the more difficult task to challenge the wider realities which contribute to the decisions behind those type of appointments, but, in this ex teaching assistants view, it’s those realities which need challenging if we are to achieve an integrated youth careers provision in schools that can positively influence outcomes for young people.


Submission to the Education Select Committee follow up Careers inquiry

In a continuing series of posts that should really be tagged “Russell gets ideas above his station,” back in July (which means that Ofsted quote isn’t now from our most recent report) I submitted a response to the Education Select Committee’s call for written evidence for its follow-up session in their Careers Guidance investigation. You can find my submission here (PDF) and the rest of the submissions here.

There are some conflicting views and differing opinions but also plenty of common ground in those submissions about which drivers of change the Committee should recommend the DfE to enact and it will be interesting to see what response the raised profile of CEIAG will elicit from the Education Secretary in her session with the Committee on 3rd December compared to the utter dismissal the previous post holder gave.

July 2014

Submission to the Education Select Committee Careers Guidance Follow Up inquiry.

Russell George (personal submission) Careers Co-ordinator Stopsley High School.

Post holder for 5 years as part of a Work Related and Curriculum team at our 11-16 school. Our most recent Section 5 Ofsted Inspection in 2012 rated the guidance for students moving as “Outstanding” and we were visited as part of the Ofsted “Going in the right direction?” Careers report in February 2013. Following this I have been fortunate to be invited to present at national conferences and events. I also blog at https://fecareersiag.wordpress.com/

Executive Summary:

  • The DfE must realise that asking schools to commit staffing and resourcing to this work requires a significant budget commitment and a dedicated member of staff
  • A scale-able system for organising school/employer interaction already exists in the Inspiring the Future website and any overlap with the forthcoming expansion of responsibilities of the National Careers Service should be avoided
  • The current accountability stick of Destination Measures is not enough to override short term decisions made by institutions to funnel students into or keep them on learning routes for funding reasons. Further detail and onus is required
  • Local Authorities have a central role to play in the collaboration across transition points of all local providers of all routes and must improve their post 14 learner data collection but confusion around their input, role and monitoring powers of FE, UTC’s, Studio Schools and Academies means that many gaps, overlaps and dead ends in curriculum and qualifications have been allowed to flourish


1. Since the Coalition Government came to power, schools that have committed to succeeding in careers work have taken on two large financial commitments to enable this work to continue at a service level similar to what went before. Firstly, they will have either employed or paid to buy in a Careers practitioner to provide guidance to students and to organise employer facing activities which previously were secured through a free service offered by Connexions. Secondly, those schools which still offer some form of work experience in Key Stage 4 now have to pay a service provider for those placements to still occur. Previously local Education Business Partnerships (EBPs) were centrally funded to perform this work. These standard offers of a Careers program can then be further supplemented with trips to national events such as the Skills Show or the Big Bang Fair and tasters to more localised progression routes but still with the costs of staffing and transport to overcome. More overarching schemes such as Career Academies or Pearson’s Think Future scheme allow schools to buy in a wholly packaged service but this has a cost price that reflects this plus they would still need a nominated co-ordinator in school. This sudden extra demand on school budgets was noted in the recent Gatsby Foundation report “Good Career Guidance1” and the figures they quote for organising each of those activities are, in my experience, realistic. Placing a new requirement on schools and then having Ofsted monitor the implementation of this requirement is sensible but does beg the question that, if Careers, Education, Information & Guidance (CEIAG) work is deemed now to be an accountable aspect of a school’s purpose, should this not be funded as such?

2. Since the updated Careers guidance was released in April 2014, it has been trailed that The National Careers Service will have an extended role to play in encouraging and facilitating school and employer engagement. The Committee should note that a working and highly successful model for this is already in place. The free Inspiring The Future website2 run by the Education & Employers Taskforce allows volunteers from a vast range of organisations and job roles to sign up to offer their time to schools. Schools are then able to contact the volunteers through the site and organise bespoke events from assemblies to group sessions to Careers fairs. Any new offer from the National Careers Service would need to tread carefully so not to needlessly overlap the Inspiring The Future service and find a niche not already catered for. In recent years a raft of organisations and schemes with similar employer/school interaction goals have sprung up such as MyKindaCrowd or National Careers week, employers such as Barclays have set up their own Lifeskills offer, business groups such as Business in the Community and CIPD have their own schemes and regional bodies have grown out of the ashes of EBPs to facilitate this work. For employers wishing to engage with schools this landscape is extremely confusing with all of these competing bodies offering structure and access. This area needs simplification, not the addition of a repetitive new organisation. Without the political will to implement or fund a national structure for school/employer collaboration the Committee should stress to the Government to look to support and expand what is already there.

3. Working in a secondary school without a Sixth Form immediately changes the freedoms and onus of my role. In his evidence session with the Committee on Careers in December 2013, Michael Gove refused to acknowledge the negative impact on CEIAG that the pressures and assumptions placed on students to stay in the school’s own Sixth Form can have. Anybody who has worked in secondary education can tell you this is a palpably false assertion. The DfE has introduced the inclusion of Destination Measure statistics as a monitoring tool to, in some extent, combat this practice but felt that the publishing of a Careers Plan as suggested by the Committee was an administrative step too far. Destination Measures in their current form do not have the accountability clout to alter school’s behaviour in this regard. The forthcoming changes to the accountability system in 2016 have been universally welcomed for placing the progress of every child at the heart of school accountability. Destination Measures must be included in these changes. In the DfE document “Reforming the accountability system for secondary schools3” October 2013 it is stated that a fifth statistic of a sustained destination percentage is desired but that the underlying data must be “robust” enough for this to be including as one of the headline figures schools will be required to publish in a uniform format. The Committee should press the Government to ensure that progress is being made in ensuring the stability of this data from Local Authorities and secure a commitment that these statistics will form a headline part of the new accountability structure. This public accountability would then dovetail with the welcome inclusion of a CEIAG focus in Section 5 Ofsted inspections and the future data to be collected on school alumni employment and benefit outcomes as recently included in the Small Business bill.

4. As well as the impetus on Local Authorities to secure robust 14-19 transition and destination data, further clarification should be requested from the DfE on their requirements to ensure collaboration of education and training providers across Key Stages in their region. A number of recent policies have aims and outcomes which, with local oversight, school led CEIAG can aid. Without local oversight the recent growth in school Sixth Forms at academy schools have the potential to prove poor value for money and increase the pressure on schools to protect revenue streams. Without local oversight the recent growth in UTC and Studio School provision to offer new choices to students at 14 will continue to struggle to enrol students leading to more high-profile closures. Without local oversight, employers will struggle to inform Colleges and training providers of their future labour force needs and the demands of the future localised labour market. Without local oversight, CEIAG becomes a threat to providers conscientious of their reputations and of the competition for enrolment numbers. With local oversight, transparent and informed CEIAG can motivate students to succeed in the routes and paths most relevant to them benefiting all local providers, the regional economy and, most importantly, the students themselves.

  1. http://www.gatsby.org.uk/GoodCareerGuidance
  2. http://www.inspiringthefuture.org/
  3. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/249893/Consultation_response_Secondary_School_Accountability_Consultation_14-Oct-13_v3.pdf


I don’t know how to put this but I’m kind of a big deal: CEIAG remix

The fact that anyone reads, comments or shares my posts on this Careers blog continually amazes and delights me. There is the whole internet out there to click your life away on and, as an author of an opinion based blog focused on a narrow strand of education policy, I’m grateful that, for what ever reasons, people choose to while away some time on this particular corner of it.

Of course, all bloggers must feel pride or some small sense of accomplishment when people they admire or respect in their field takes note, praises or even quotes your output.

Then, there’s the faintly ridiculous sensation you get when you realise that the Department for Education has quoted you.

That’s right: in paragraph 18 of a recently released document (footnote bottom of page 6), written by the DfE for the Education Select Committee to update them following their inquiry into Careers Guidance in schools, this short post gets a mention.

They’ve quoted me there to show approval for the revised Statutory Guidance which fits into the wider mission of the update document to convince the Select Committee that the Department’s policies are bearing fruit and steering us all towards an improved CEIAG landscape.

Firstly, it’s a quote I stand by. The revised Guidance document was a vast improvement over the original and goes into great (sometimes even overly repetitive) detail of what a school should be doing in regard to CEIAG. There was a period after the release of the original duty document when a common complaint from Headteachers was that they “didn’t know what to do” to provide quality careers provision. The revised document ended that get out clause as a reason for a school’s lack of provision but, let’s be clear, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other reasons that a school may well be struggling with providing Careers services for their young people.

So, in a desperate scramble to retain some sense of credibility now that I’ve been quoted by “the man,” here are a few things to clear up:

  1. At the time of the inquiry, I wrote a less than favourable post about the Secretary of State’s appearance in front of the Committee to give evidence. Surprise! None of that gets a mention.
  2. I really do appreciate the use of the term “careers website” guys but, come on, The Guardian Careers site, Careersbox, the National Careers Service, these are “careers websites.” This place is just the semi coherent ramblings of a lanky lad from Luton who is putting off other things he should be doing instead.
  3. In other areas of policy the DfE is greatly increasing the amount of content and so teaching time needed for subjects such as Maths and English. They won’t (and probably shouldn’t) apologise for this but it will have consequences. For any Career leads in schools hanging onto Form or dedicated PHSE teaching time to deliver Careers sessions, this is bad news.
  4. The money issue is bubbling under and will continue to grow into a massive issue for schools. Quality careers provision costs money, be that wages for a post, paying for resources or just coach trips to an event, it needs schools to dedicate a budget to it and, as the Gatsby Foundation showed, if schools are not doing that at when it could only cost a small percentage of current funding levels…the squeeze on Careers will only get tighter as the overall pot shrinks. Schools need funding for this work and any hint of a request or suggestion that would of required cash support has been stonewalled by this Department.

I presume the update has been submitted as summer reading for the Education Committee members ahead of a final evidence session on their inquiry with the Secretary of State in the Autumn (which, considering his Department just ignored every suggestion or criticism in their report, should be fun). Also ahead of this they have released a call for written evidence to be submitted to them before the 19th September 2014. I couldn’t think of any better submissions for them to receive than evidence from practitioners in the field striving to show the importance and value of CEIAG everyday.



Banned: “Preparing young people for jobs that don’t yet exist”

Taking a lead from the recent AGCAS Phoenix magazine with the theme “Careers concepts which should be banned” (and by that I mean stealing the idea) I would like to put forward a concept, or more specifically a phrase, that I contend should be forever banned from a politician’s vocabulary when speaking about careers work in Secondary schools…

……unless, that is,  they actually start using it in the way it should be used.

The “jobs that don’t yet exist” phrase is usually deployed by politicians in their speeches when they attempt to confront the numerous issues identified by the numerous reports regarding the state of school age Careers work and to show they can understand the bigger picture. It conjures forth job titles from the space age such as Hydrogen Station Manager and Avatar security consultant that hold the promise of exciting new careers awaiting (somehow) prepared youngsters. A phrase that is designed to highlight their keen economic mind and but, in reality, ends up saying absolutely nothing.

A recent example appeared in Tristram Hunt’s speech at a Policy Exchange event but Micheal Gove has also been happy to jump on the “future jobs” bandwagon.

How can we prepare young people for jobs that don’t yet exist in industries that haven’t yet been invented in a world-changing faster than any of us can predict?

During Hunt’s speech I tweeted:

which *I think* people took the wrong way, which is why I’m writing this post; most uses of the “preparing young people for jobs that don’t yet exist” phrase bandwagon are utterly empty cul-de-sacs of educational discourse that our elected leaders hide in when they want to sound interesting. Of course, political speeches are often the art of making complicated civil service structural reform and legislation into headline grabbing generalisations but those of us at the coal face would still like to cling to the slim hope that this can be achieved with a smidgen of substance.

This doesn’t do that. It merely states the obvious, that schools have never known the future jobs their alumni would graduate to.

That is that schools and whatever wider careers framework they lead to have already been preparing young people for jobs that didn’t exist yet since, well, the beginning of schools and education.

Whatever formal schooling Tony Janus received in Washington DC at the turn of the 20th century it prepared him well enough to become the world’s first commercial airline pilot.

I doubt that Jonathon Fletcher’s school experience in Scarborough included learning about the possibilities of web-based indexing systems but that didn’t stop him writing Jumpstation in 1993, the first search engine.

When Adam Kontras started to document his move to Los Angeles to ‘make it’ in show-business with online vlogs, I doubt very much that his school experience covered becoming the first vlogger in an industry that now earns beauty vloggers up to £20,000 a month.

These are 3 examples from millions. Progress happens on the foundations laid by education and innovation.

Another problem with predicting the “jobs of the future” soothsayers trick is that those predictions are only based on a few criteria such as expected progress in affordable technology. Only a few years ago large numbers of people retrained to become Domestic Energy Assessors as the Government was due to introduce a requirement to gain an energy assessment as part of the planned Home Information Pack (HIP). Until, that was, when the  HIP was scrapped and, for a period, all of those newly qualified Assessors became suddenly unnecessary. An entire career pathway hung in the balance not due to advancements in technology or the changing needs of the market but on the stroke of a bureaucrats pen.

The CEIAG sector needs our politicians to be more lucid and eloquent when speaking about preparing the next generation for their career pathways. We need them to be able to summarise the skills and attributes that business leaders are saying will be needed to navigate the future labour market. Attributes to succeed such as:

and those detailed in reports such as Tomorrow’s Growth from the CBI.

This “future jobs” nonsense needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history before anymore of this ‘future’ happens.

Micheal Gove speech 03/03/2014 on Careers

In a wide-ranging speech today Micheal Gove again trailed the forthcoming updated careers guidance:

We also need business to provide more opportunities for students to learn about the world of work directly from those who can speak with enthusiasm and passion about their companies and careers.

For young people reflecting on which career path to follow no information is as valuable, no inspiration so powerful as the testimony of those at the front line of business. That is why the new careers guidance produced by my colleague Matt Hancock is all about cutting out the middle man and getting inspirational speakers in front of students to spark their ambitions. Students can’t aspire to lives they’ve never known. So we need business people to visit schools, engage and inspire.

Initiatives like Robert Peston’s Speakers for Schools and Miriam González Durántez’s Inspiring the Future: Inspiring Women are superb models. But every business should be engaging with its local schools and colleges – offering speakers and competing to inspire the next generation.

Which reinforces the message that Careers work in schools should be purely about brokering collaboration with business.

He did have some good points on work experience though:

And that inspiration should feed through directly to the offer of work experience.

I know that some companies have been reluctant to offer, or maintain, work experience because of the bureaucracy, risks and costs associated with it.

Offer a young person your time, interest and access to your workplace and you can then find yourself worrying about arcane, confusing and unnecessary regulatory burdens.

We’ve already started to sort out this nonsense. Last year the Health and Safety Executive stripped away unnecessary health and safety rules, the Home Office removed the need for criminal checks on employers offering under-18s work experience, the insurance industry – at the government’s request – confirmed that young people on work experience will be covered by employers’ liability insurance, and the Department for Education introduced new funding rules that encourage schools and colleges to arrange post-16 work experience. We’ve changed the law so that for most businesses, so long as you behave reasonably, you have discharged all your duties under health and safety legislation.

Soon, there will be no excuse for any company to decline to offer young people proper work experience.


Which, to someone in the midst of attempting to organise placements for a year 10 group, is bliss to my ears. Still too many businesses are hiding behind fabricated rules and regulations and imposing arbitrary minimum age requirements that, to the young person, feels like a door slamming in their face before they’ve even had a chance to impress.

Confirmed: No face 2 face requirement in the updated #CEIAG guidance

In the Lords yesterday, Lord Nash confirmed what, I suspect, we all knew already, that there will be no mention of a requirement for face to face independent provision in the forthcoming updated guidance for schools on how they should be fulfilling the Careers Statutory Duty.


At Column 826.

Baroness Hughes of Stretford (Lab): My Lords, despite the Minister’s claims, Ofsted, the Education Committee, the British Chambers of Commerce and the CBI have criticised the Government’s hands-off approach to careers guidance. The CBI said recently that careers advice is on life support now in many

25 Feb 2014 : Column 826

schools in England. Does the Minister accept that it was wrong to give schools sole responsibility for careers advice but no money to deliver it? Will the Government now act to eradicate the postcode lottery in careers guidance and insist, as my noble friend said, on independent, face-to-face advice for all young people?

Lord Nash: I know that the noble Baroness and I share aspirations for what we expect for young people, but the answer to her question is a firm no. As noble Lords know, the fact that the country is short of money is not this party’s fault. However, I also think that the assumption that a face-to-face interview with a careers adviser is the gold standard is a very outmoded model. As noble Lords will see when we publish our guidance, I hope shortly, we have a very strong emphasis on employer engagement, which we believe is the secret to good careers advice. I give an example: Westminster Academy, which has built up partnerships with more than 200 employers, has 73% FSM and 75% A* to C, including English and maths. I can think of no better example or argument for employer engagement on the ground, giving pupils a direct line of sight to real-life workplaces rather than just career advisers.

This continues the themes from Micheal Gove’s appearance in front of the Education Select Committee in which he hoped for all of the positive outcomes of the work of Careers Advisers without actually wanting any Careers Advisers.

Whenever the updated guidance appears, it seems it will purely be a road-map explaining how schools and business could connect and collaborate which has already been covered in  a recent IPPR report and will also be the point of a forthcoming Business in the Community document, which I have been fortunate enough to see an early draft of. With all of this guidance available to schools and the clear notification of a judgement on their CEIAG provision in any Ofsted report, the ball will be firmly placed back into school’s court on how they approach this work.