Nicky Morgan

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.