Nicky Morgan

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.

 

Your #GE2017 CEIAG manifesto roundup

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

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

Conservatives

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

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

The Labour Party

CEIAG gets two specific mentions in the Labour Party Manifesto.

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

The Liberal Democrats

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

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

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

UPDATE – May 25th

UKIP

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

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

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.

This Your Life campaign

Launched earlier this week is a new scheme backed by Government and numerous large employers across the sector called “Your Life.” Aimed especially at girls but keen to claim the attention of any teenagers, the campaign aims to massively increase the numbers of students taking STEM subjects and following those through to impact on career choice.

As is the norm for these sort of campaigns it has gained a large amount of media traction on its first morning (BBC & Telegraph) and is (attempting) to turn this initial buzz into a sustained social media presence. At the launch event CEO’s and STEM advocates looked vaguely uneasy while being interviewed by some hand-picked teenagers, spoke about the forthcoming advances in robotics and automation (seemingly oblivious to the fact they’re at an event which was all about lots of people having lots of jobs) and told us how that shady looking guy in the Oxford SU bar is probably just a producer from Countdown. Everyone then heard from the Education Secretary about the target to increase by 50% the number of girls taking STEM subjects at A Level. (Small side note – how many more students will be taking those subjects over the next years 3 just through the increase in population?)

This is flashy stuff with some big corporate names attached. On the morning of its launch though, the main channel for actually getting young people involved is a video competition called Formula 100. And that’s it. An email update for teachers or careers advisers to sign up to? Not yet. A commitment from those businesses present at the launch to visit X number of schools this academic year? Not yet. The announcement of a single large-scale event like the Big Bang Fair? Not yet.

All of those initiatives and many others may yet still to be announced, it’s a three-year program so to pass judgement two days into it is harsh but there is worrying air of PR flash, like the smoke after a firework, hanging around. The Events page of the campaign’s Partners website looks particularly barren and, at the time of writing, many of the events are those already held by organisations such as Semta and Wise.

On the very same morning the CBI held their annual conference and launched a number of priorities they would like their members and the main parties to consider in the build up to General Election 2015. The Education polices included asking businesses to “Step up and offer valuable, inspiring and engaging work experience opportunities for young people from a wide socio-economic background and increase commitment to collaborating with and supporting schools.” While one of their requests for Government is to, “Reinstate the duty on schools to provide work-related learning at Key Stage four and introduce a national network of Local Brokers to support schools in delivering it.” The structural change required there shouldn’t be underestimated, the financial commitment to implement work experience for all and a system of Local Brokers shouldn’t be underestimated, the power of the message needed to change employers attitudes to offering placements shouldn’t be underestimated. That’s a huge amount of work but work which, in my view, would have a significant positive impact on career and learning choices of young people.

Over the coming months, for the Your Life to achieve anywhere near the positive impact on young people as those two suggestions from the CBI would, the substance of the campaign really needs to live up to the PR wow.