ofsted

The Careers Leader Handbook review

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Whenever something new in education begins, be it a new policy or teaching approach, there is always the risk that soon enough will come bandwagon jumping books, resources and expert training gurus all preaching the gospel of the new.

Now that the requirement for all schools and colleges to have a named member of staff as a Careers Leader is in place, there has been training advertised, resources up for grabs and now a shiny new publication, “The Careers Leader Handbook: How to create an outstanding careers programme for your school or college” is just a click away from your Amazon basket.

The Handbook though comes with pedigree as Tristram Hooley and David Andrews (who I’m sure many readers of this blog will have met, been trained by or learnt a lot from at conferences along their professional CEIAG journey) both have a huge background and experience in CEIAG theory, policy and practice so readers should know that they are in good hands.

The experience and depth of policy knowledge of the pair is apparent throughout the book. Each section is enriched by the concise explanations of the wider context of why the suggested model or practice should be attempted and the focus on the positive outcomes for young people that could be achieved. The research and evidence background supporting provision is covered but always in a way that distills down the main points so readers come away with practical applications to work with young people.

Sections

The Handbook is split into sections with Section 2 devoted to each of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks, Section 3 looking at the role of a Careers Leader and Section 4 discussing the need for continuous improvement and learning in the future.

Looking at each Benchmark individually may seem like an obvious structure but it really does lend itself to concisely offering examples of provision that fits and understanding how all that provision can link together. The “Nutshell” recaps at the end of each chapter bullet point the key strands within the chapter and mean that you take away the clear messages.

The use of invented case studies also has benefits as most readers would see reflections of their own establishments via the stories of Dunchester Progress Academy & Vanchester College.

The grounded experience of the writers in real schools is apparent in the realistic examples of offering Careers through PHSE or drop down days on page 67. The accurate representation of how schools and colleges actually run continues in Section 3: The role of the Careers Leader (page 131) when describing the different models of staffing CEIAG in schools. Without rehashing the debate on the flexibility of the defined job of a Careers Leader, the detail on the expectations and responsibilities associated with the role would leave any reader in no doubt regarding the seniority required to properly fulfill the remit.

Elsewhere Chapters 2.7 Experiences of HE, FE and work based training & 2.8 Personal Guidance are excellent on not just on the aims of those aspects of CEIAG but also on the challenges and barriers to overcome to build quality provision in these areas. The Chapters tackle head-on the, sometimes difficult, conversations Careers Leaders need to have with colleagues and superiors to ensure that impartial and timely provision for pupils is in place.

Criticisms

Any worthwhile review provides a bit of balance. To do that for the Careers Leader Handbook I’m going to have to include some extremely pedantry things such as the misspelling of Janet Colledge’s (@careersdefender) surname on page 177 and the reference to the College version of the DfE Careers Guidance being “Statutory” on page 23 (it’s not, it’s DfE guidance overseen by Ofsted with the threat to remove ESFA funding if non compliance is discovered so it’s power is not derived from the Statute book as the list of Statutory duties for schools is).

I personally wouldn’t have included Grammar school examples of CEIAG programmes as best practice (page 26) for the same reasons as I criticised the CEC for including them in their publications but The Careers Leader Handbook does have a different remit and it is good to show that great CEIAG can be built in any type of school.

A more obvious issue is the uneasy relationship the book has with funding throughout. The need for money to be available to fund all of the suggested provision is not treated as a unmentionable elephant in the room, far from it, the scale of what Careers Leaders should be asking for from their Headteachers is spelled out clearly particularly in the chapters discussing personal guidance and Section 3 includes a whole passages on budgeting and resourcing. A strategic aim of the book seems to be to empower Careers Leaders to demand more from their Senior Leaders and budget holders and this is to be applauded but readers will still read some passages with a wry smile. On page 152 the line “A budget begins as a prediction of what is likely to happen over a particular period” would spark a hollow laugh from those Headteachers setting deficit budgets across the country. The treatment of evaluation also has a slightly less than real world tone to it. Even the pitiful amount of public money that school CEIAG departments are given still comes with the responsibility to report on the impact of that funding. So the advice to Careers Leaders when evaluating to

don’t ask: Does our programme have an impact? Do ask: Does providing students with labour market information result in them having broader ideas about possible careers?”

is not couched in the necessity of a Headteacher proritising funding. They need to know what has impact on their learners to decide which provision to direct their funds towards instead all of the other provision they could choose to fund. It seems that how a researcher would approach evaluation of provision and how practitioner must are two different strategies. Overall, the uneasy feeling comes from the assumption that this funding will be given. I understand that this is almost an implicit necessity (you could hardly have a “Section 5: What to do if your school doesn’t have a pot to pee in” then followed by 15 blank pages and a shrug gif) but it still leads to some slightly eyebrow raising moments.

Is it worth my (school’s) cash?

Of course, because it’s extremely interesting, knowledgeable and well written. Anyone currently offering CEIAG provision in schools or a sole trading Careers Adviser looking to work in schools should read it. FE and HE Careers practitioners should read it to understand just how far CEIAG policy and practice have come in the last few years. Policy makers looking at just what they are requiring of schools should read it. It complements and brings greater depth to the free resources which are linked to on page 127 from the CEC and has much potential for dipping back into to remind any Careers Leader of the purpose and possibility their work. This is not a resource to read and file away on undusted office shelf, this book should be a core component of any Career Leaders office desk ready to grab and consult throughout the journey in building your CEIAG programme.

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The EDu Taskforce apprenticeship report didn’t have recommendations for employers so I added some

After writing this blog for all these years, a few returning themes certainly start to emerge. A regular concern I have posted about is the erroneous view (in my opinion) that the low percentages of young people gaining apprenticeships is not down to an awareness issue but due to more complex mix of lack of vacancies & demand outstripping supply, the negative perception of the quality of apprenticeships, employers hiring practices and views favouring older applicants and lack of efficacy in their applications due to their poor networks, work experience and failure to explain their transferable skills. Addressing these issues would take significant investment in student support mechanisms (eg staff) and a culture change in employment hiring so the far easier soundbite for policy makers has always been to bemoan the awareness of apprenticeships in young people.

The position that I disagree with has gained substantive backing with the release of new report from the Education & Employers Taskforce.

This is a piece of work from the researchers who’s previous findings have, I think it’s fair to say, had a substantial impact on the CEIAG policy direction in recent years.

The report uses the following statistic:

Recent government figures have shown that despite the overall number of apprenticeships increasing, the number of under 19s starts have stagnated at around 20%

as a launchpad for examining the methods and practices of schools from which a higher proportion of students do progress into apprenticeships. The Taskforce, quite sensibly, want to amplify those practices and see how expandable they are for all schools. Some of the useful lessons to be learnt are that

In seeking to address the negative attitudes and assumptions young people hold about apprenticeships, the literature suggests that increasing the level of authentic exposure of young people to the apprenticeship route could be helpful.

which is a branch of the previous findings of the Taskforce that employer encounters are beneficial to employment outcomes of learners.

Useful tips to consider when designing school CEIAG provision include altering CV writing sessions by using application form writing frames instead as

Only five of the employers surveyed mentioned using CVs at any point when hiring apprentices, with thirteen instead making reference to an online assessment or
application form which contained a number of write in questions. In our sample of schools, however, CV workshops were still highlighted by the majority of respondents as a method for preparing young people for job applications.

but also more generic recommendations such as promoting higher and degree apprenticeships more, promoting with students at a younger age and raising the profile of apprenticeships with parents. These are all aims which any school Careers professional would agree with and strive for. The survey findings acknowledge the transformative effect good careers work that utilises employers can have

Schools remain, based on the responses given by young people (see figure 1), a key source of information for future possibilities as much as employers. In particular, for those young people who do not have access to personal connection, schools may be major players in raising awareness and broadening aspirations

The report also looks at the desire of young people to want to pursue an apprenticeship

edu apprenticeships1

which, on the face of things, suggests that apprenticeships do not entice enough young people to even attempt to apply for them. What is missing though from this response is the contextual data that show that many more young people apply for apprenticeship vacancies than there are vacancies to begin with

so, even with that low-interest base, the current labour market intelligence shows any young person that securing an apprenticeship is much more difficult than gaining a place at a Sixth Form or FE College. This is acknowledged elsewhere in the report

Demand for apprenticeships from young people far outstrips supply. According to data from the National Apprenticeship Service and the governments FE data library, more than 1.6 million online applicants competed for 211,380 vacancies posted online in 2016

Which makes it odd then that, the report does not mirror the recommendations for schools and include recommendations for employers. So here are the ones which I think they should’ve included to achieve more young people transferring into an apprenticeship before 19.

1. Advertise more apprenticeship vacancies

Because of the above

2. Pay them more

Using current apprentices as role models is a wise method of provision. The Young Apprentice Ambassador Network should be in the toolbox of every school Careers Leader. But if you really want the value of good word of mouth to cascade down from those current apprentices, listen to their own feedback and increase the wages offered.

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3. Make your hiring process more accessible

Careers Leaders understand that it’s their job to increase the employability of young people and that includes making them able to decode and navigate the application process but please, meet us halfway. Many apprenticeship application processes at larger companies are unnecessarily complex from the initial web search (no, vacancies in Doha are not of interest) to the language used. This was highlighted in a recent article by Paul Johnson, Director of the IFS

This could also include having downloadable pdf’s of your application form on your school leaver or apprenticeship website so that practitioners could print these off and use them in a group session.

4. Stop bemoaning the influence of parents

The report includes references to literature, surveys and feedback

Many parents of our generation were brought up during the old YTS days and perceptions have stuck for example parents calling it slave labour. Parents also question the loss of child benefit and many will prevent their children from doing an apprenticeship based on this factor. I recently had a conversation with a parent of a 17-year-old at our 6th form who is stopping her son because of this

that highlights parents as negative influencers on young people thinking about apprenticeships. But excludes data that suggests that attitudes are changing such as the recent Varkey Foundation global survey of parents

 

5. Be honest about your skill requirements & consider new hires instead

Many apprenticeships are not new jobs but training schemes for current employees. As the 2015 Ofsted report “Developing skills for future prosperity” noted

Nationally, considerably more 16- to 18-year-olds apply for apprenticeships
than those aged 25 and over, but far fewer become apprentices. Approximately 40% of the 19,000 learners on apprenticeships at the providers visited were aged 25 and over, whereas only 29% were aged 16 to 18. Most of these older apprentices were already employed in jobs that were converted to apprenticeships.

The Taskforce report also fails to acknowledge this, so the starting point assumption that all apprenticeships were open to school leavers to apply to is a false premise.

The Ofsted report also includes typical employer viewpoints such as

the employers interviewed frequently said that they were reluctant to take a young apprentice straight from school. Two factors dominated their rationale for this.

  • They believed too many 16-year-old school leavers lacked personal
    presentation and communication skills, or gave the impression at interview
    that they were immature and unreliable.
  • They recognised that employing an apprentice required a significant
    investment in time to train them in the generic employability skills and did
    not feel they could afford this.

which shows the hurdles that young applicants have to overcome.

This report and the accompanying sector news coverage paint a simplified view of the issues around young people and apprenticeship uptake which contends that, if only awareness was higher; then more young people would secure apprenticeships. The concern for me is that this view will find only too welcoming a home in the minds of policy makers looking for easy blames and quick fixes. As ever, the actual solution of not just improving awareness but also the employability, cultural capital, application and recruitment efficacy of young people and changing the hiring culture and stereotypical views of employers, is a challenge that would require a much more herculean level of investment, time and effort.

 

The apprenticeship PR still doesn’t match the vacancy numbers reality

Every summer, the news cycle shines its brief gaze on the exam results of our nation’s youth and those you wish to promote their specific routes for young people attempt to gain PR traction usually by doing down the other pathways on offer. This summer I found it noticeable the extent articles and headlines blamed poor careers advice specifically in relation for a perceived lack of interest or knowledge in young people about apprenticeships.

A number of articles highlighted the results of an online survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) that reported that 8% of 15-18 year olds were being advised to pursue the apprenticeship route and that 28% had never been spoken to by their school or college about apprenticeships. This was picked up by specialist sites such as FE News and mainstream press such as The Mirror. The quoted response from Alex Meikle, the Director of the ECA, was that “too many young people are effectively being led up the garden path by careers advice in schools, which is significantly out of step with the needs of industry and future employers.”

Elsewhere, Labour MP Frank Field was writing in the TES that A Level students had “been sold a pup” by schools and advisers due to the increasing rates of apprentice pay progression and employment opportunities compared to the weakening graduate labour market. The Managing Director of the NOCN, Graham Hastings-Evans, was also in the TES, claiming that it was “not too late” for students let down by poor careers advice to still apply for vocational and apprenticeship routes. And finally, the new Apprenticeships and Skills Minister, Anne Milton, took the opportunity in The Telegraph to promote the route and the Government’s work on the Skills Plan.

All of this attention is welcome for promoting the full variety of routes on offer to young people but, in their haste to do down careers advice as the reason that large numbers of young people are still following traditional paths the writers are conveniently forgetting a number of facts.

  1.  Large numbers of secondary school pupils would consider taking vocational routes post 16

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2. Significant proportions of young people who want to pursue vocational pathways are battling unsupportive parents (same source)

parents apprenticeships

3. For Level 3 students, the choice of Higher Apprenticeships is miniscule

apprenticeship vacancies by level

Using the above data from the GOV.UK FE Data Library we can see that there have only been 3908 Higher Apprenticeship vacancies advertises in the whole 17/18 year to date, 3810 in 15/16 and 2870 in 14/15. So Apprenticeship provision at this level is growing but compare this to the numbers of students transitioning from Level 3 into traditional Higher Education routes. For the 2017 application cycle, just from England the total of 18 & 19 year olds applying for Higher Education was 319,100.

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The number of actual live Higher Apprenticeship vacancies in June 2017 when these young people were finishing their education courses or gap years and becoming available to the labour market? 590.

apprenticeship vacancies in june

To suggest that young people should take the apprenticeship route to protect against the waning wage benefit of graduate salaries is blindly ignoring the biggest hurdle facing those young people. There are nowhere near enough apprenticeship opportunities at that level for them to pursue.

4. Young people are registering on “Find an Apprenticeship” and applying for Apprenticeships in far greater numbers than the vacancies available

16-18 year olds are by the far the largest age group to register to be able to apply for Apprenticeship vacancies. 254,250 have registered in the year to date so far well on the way to the 280,200 who signed up in 15/16.

apprenticeship registrations by age1

This age group has, so far this year, gone on to make 939,630 applications.

apprenticeship registrations by age

5. We know that Apprenticeship employers favour hiring older applicants.

In 2015 Ofsted found that, “Under 19s made 56% of applications but only 27% of starts; 25+ made 7% of applications but 37% of starts” and that employers were reluctant to take on younger apprenticeship applicants as:

  • They believed too many 16-year-old school leavers lacked personal
    presentation and communication skills, or gave the impression at interview
    that they were immature and unreliable.
  • They recognised that employing an apprentice required a significant
    investment in time to train them in the generic employability skills and did
    not feel they could afford this.

To recap, over a quarter of a millon 16-18 year olds are making over 900,000 applications, going up against 262,970 other 18+ applicants for 169, 290 apprenticeship vacancies. 

Let’s go back to those survey figures from the ECA, using the 2016 Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics national tables data we can see that there were 1,549,000 15-18 year olds in English schools last academic year. 8% of this figure is 123,920 pupils that self reported that they were being advised to attempt to secure an apprenticeship. The total number of apprenticeships advertised so far this year is 169,298, so, in reality, the pipeline of young people being advised to take this route is proportionate to the number of vacancies on offer.

All of this shows there is already far greater interest in apprenticeships from that age group than there is base line opportunities. The Director of the ECA, and others, need to acknowledge that the challenge for apprenticeship recruitment for young people is not a lack of awareness or knowledge of the route but

  1. A lack of support with the whole application process from on line form to interview
  2. A lack of work experience building opportunities
  3. A lack of social capital to source opportunities

And that is the work that takes time, qualified staff and funded resources all of which are much more difficult to understand, lobby for or support than just taking the easy option of bashing careers advice for not giving out information.

More proof that Ofsted is not the white knight for CEIAG provision

One of the repeatedly suggested levers to pull which would improve CEIAG provision in schools is monitoring from Ofsted. Stakeholders, reports and Education Select Committee recommendations have all suggested that a secondary school’s Careers provision should be judged upon by the Inspectorate. This came to pass with the introduction of instruction for Her Majesty’s Inspectors to include comment of the quality of CEIAG provision in the 2013 and 2014 Handbook for Inspectors. This was taken as a positive step in concentrating the minds of school leaders to prioritise their CEIAG provision. Things changed though with the introduction of Ofsted’s short, targeted inspections of schools currently rated GOOD (grade 2) in September 2015.

This changed the way a large number of schools were visited and assessed and is further explained here but essentially it raised fears that, in a short, one day inspection performed by one inspector for a GOOD school that then remained GOOD, CEIAG would not be inspected. The checklist of school duties for a team of four or five inspectors to monitor over a two-day period cannot be the same for one inspector to check in a one day visit. Ofsted’s workflow guidelines for inspecting a GOOD school reflected this with the requirement for a Section 8 inspection to be carried out instead of a full Section 5.

In it’s justification for this change, Ofsted (with some rationale) argued that, in a supposedly self improving school system, an inspectorate should be focusing its resources on where the system needs them most and that would be on schools graded as 3 or 4. This was in line with the previous move to stop inspecting grade 1 schools as a matter of course and only place them under the microscope if substantive concerns were raised. Others would point out that this was an inevitable consequence of an Inspectorate tasked with inspecting growing types of provision and establishments but with a reducing budget.

Earlier this month, Ofsted released both a consultation on how short inspections had worked and the statistics for the numbers of inspections, including short inspections, from September 2016 to March 2017.

Concentrating on secondary schools, a total of 287 short inspections were carried out, of which 201 schools remained GOOD.

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A total of 535 secondary schools were inspected during this period which means that around 37% of secondary school inspections were not even required to pass comment on CEIAG during the academic year.

Ofsted also notes that the number of short inspections that converted to full Section 5 inspections is lower than last year

Twenty nine per cent of short inspections between 1 September 2016 and 31 March 2017 converted to full inspections. In 2015/16, 35% converted.

So, as schools coalesce into the higher grade boundaries but find that OUTSTANDING rating just out of reach, it seems that fewer are undergoing a full Section 5 inspection.

The folks over at Education Data Lab have already done the work in totaling up these numbers to see the complete picture of inspections that have occurred since they were introduced in 2015.

edudatalab1

So, from a total of 530 short inspections of secondary schools, 55% in those 18 months would not have been required to offer a judgement on a school’s CEIAG provision.

The most recent Ofsted Annual Report (2015-1016) shows that more secondary schools than ever are being judged as good or outstanding

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a rise of 12 percentage points since 2011.

Both the rise in non converting short inspections and the exemption of inspection OUTSTANDING schools leading to 10 years between inspections in some cases

ofsted2

means that

a) it is increasingly less likely that a school’s CEIAG provision will not be monitored during an inspection

b) it is increasingly likely that a judgement on CEIAG provision contained in an Ofsted report is from a school that previously held a grade 3 or 4

and so then

c) the headline trend of rising numbers of GOOD and OUTSTANDING schools offers no evidence to the quality of Careers provision in schools as the Careers provision in these schools will have either i) not have been inspected during the most recent inspection or ii) been inspected quite a number of years ago.

Under the current framework of inspection, Ofsted is no substantive barometer of the quality of Careers provision in schools now and, if the current trends continue, will only be more out of snyc with provision in the future.

 

 

 

An example of misguided CEIAG blaming

As someone who likes keeping up to date with CEIAG policy changes and events, I read a lot of articles both in the mainstream and specialist media who give CEIAG a right good thwacking.

If it’s a think piece on the latest terrible social mobility stats, make sure to include a bash of CEIAG in schools.

300 words on the lack of esteem parents hold for vocational courses, make sure to include a swing at school CEIAG.

Are you a business owner baffled by the low number of young people starting apprenticeships, then Careers advice in schools is surely your issue.

Most of these type of articles will include a reference to the (now four years old) Ofsted report “Going in the right direction” on the standards of careers guidance provision in secondary schools to show the research has been done but not many will point to more recent Ofsted publications that say things are improving.

And, the bit that stings, is they usually have a point. An overblown point that fails to acknowledge other deficiencies in the system such as low apprenticeship pay, the poor reputation of vocational qualifications and the fact that demand for apprenticeships vastly outstrips supply but still a point.

This open goal for journalists and freelancers looking to add a few more shares and likes from the education community ready to reconfirm their suspicions that CEIAG is naff can sometimes be missed though.

A recent(ish) article in the Guardian spoiled what was a well researched round-up of the current CEIAG landscape by over reaching on it’s causality to what inspired the article in the first place.

Young people need to be better equipped for the world of work. This is something that schools and government agree on, but there have been frequent criticisms of the careers information they provide.

Last week a report for the Social Mobility Commission found that children from poorer backgrounds face a “class earnings penalty” when they enter the workplace. And a recent Ofsted report found that of 40 schools, just four were providing adequate careers advice to their students.

Which, on the face of it, seems like a fair connection to make, that is, until you read that section of the actual report.

social mobility report3

So let’s be clear on what those findings mean. An employee, despite having the same levels of education and experience doing the same job as a colleague earns over £2000 less a year because they come from a working class background.

The researchers found this pay difference is more pronounced social mobility report4

when they looked at difference aspects of the class divide but the fact that it remains when all of the factors are controlled for is remarkable.

The report goes on to speculate on some of the possible reasons for this finding on the “supply side”

As previous work suggests, the mobile may specialise in less lucrative areas (Cook, Faulconbridge, and Muzio 2012; Ashley 2015), may be more reluctant to ask for pay raises, have less access to networks facilitating work opportunities (Macmillan, Tyler, and Vignoles 2015), or in some cases even exclude themselves from seeking promotion because of anxieties about “fitting in” (Friedman 2015).

and the “demand side”

they are either consciously or unconsciously given fewer rewards in the workplace than those from more advantaged backgrounds. This may manifest as outright discrimination or snobbery (Friedman et al 2016), or it may have to do with more subtle processes of favouritism or ‘culturalmatching’, whereby elite employers misrecognise social and cultural traits rooted in middle class backgrounds as signals of merit and talent (Rivera, 2015; Ashley, 2015).

Which is where the link to CEIAG in schools falls down. While the supply side characteristics are qualities that (to different extents) public sector intervention in the form of CEIAG can contest the demand side factors are beyond our sphere. And it’s those practices which, only through fundamental changes of attitude and practice in the workplace, will progress be made on discrimination against employees from working class backgrounds.

 

 

 

Some kind of bliss – on timing for Careers reports

Today saw (yet another) report on Careers work in school added to the library of publications released on the matter. The sub-Committee on Education, Skills & the Economy published a report on the findings of it’s inquiry into the state of CEIAG in schools.  The recommendations and conclusions within retread old ground of those previously recommended by Education Select Committees and takes a lot of direction from the report du jour, the Gatsby Foundation report on Careers.

Some of those detailed recommendations make sense, for example:

We invite the Government, in its response, to set out a comprehensive plan for improving destination data, including the timescales for doing so. This plan should include steps to make the data available in a more timely way and to ensure that they cover a longer period of time, and give more details on how the data will draw on information held by other Government departments. The Government should also consider how best to present its destination data, to mitigate the risk that schools are judged primarily on the number of their students going onto higher education.

 

We recommend that the Government, in its careers strategy, take steps to simplify the delivery of its careers policy at the national level. It should put a single Minister and a single Department in charge of co-ordinating careers provision for all ages, and set out how it plans to rationalise the number of Government-funded organisations delivering careers programmes.

 

We recommend that the Government work with employers and schools to produce a plan to ensure that all students at Key Stage 4 have the opportunity to take part in meaningful work experience.

all get a big thumbs up from me.

Other points such as for the Careers & Enterprise Company to take on the “inspiration agenda” work of the National Careers Service might be good strategic ideas but, as an end facilitator of that provision, I’m more concerned that high quality provision is on offer. How the email invites actually make their way to my inbox doesn’t bother me.

What does concern me though is the sheer unfortunate timing of the whole report and seemingly oblivious to external factors the report (actually written on the 29th June) is.

Firstly the report is published in the post-Brexit maelstrom. We currently have a barely functioning Parliament as both main parties are gripped in their own internal struggles. Getting traction from Ministers caught up promoting their favoured candidates in the Conservative Leadership election will be difficult before the summer recess and, with a General Election a possible blot on the horizon (and so a new Education Secretary) not likely after. If Brexit can scupper an entire White Paper, what hope a report from a sub-committee? Will the report be championed by the opposition? Well, it would need a quick grasp of a new brief from a new Shadow Education MP only a few days into her role after the previous incumbent lasted two days.

The aftershock of the Brexit vote on Government business cannot be underestimated. The Institute for Government rates the Life Chances Strategy (of which the Careers & Enterprise Company is a component) as “delayed” and highly dependent on whoever takes the Tory leadership crown.

Another iceberg in the way of traction is the Chilcot report on the Iraq War. Released the day after the sub-Committee Careers report, it is sure to consume news headlines and, already hard pressed, Parliamentary focus.

Then there is the reliance in the report on Ofsted to monitor CEIAG provision in schools which doesn’t appear to quite realise what’s happening to Ofsted.

We recommend that Ofsted introduce a specific judgment on careers information, advice and guidance for secondary schools, and set clear criteria for making these judgments. The Common Inspection Framework should be amended to make clear that a secondary school whose careers provision is judged as “requires improvement” or “inadequate” cannot be judged to be “outstanding” overall; likewise, a secondary school should be unable to receive an overall judgment of “good” if its careers provision is judged to be “inadequate”.

For context, this academic year has seen a sharp fall in the number of schools Ofsted is actually inspecting due, in part, to a new “targeted” inspection framework. One goal of a “self improving system” is to have this more targeted Inspectorate but the £31m funding “black hole” Ofsted faces over the next four years will drive the inspection framework just as much. Add to this the appointment of a new Chief Inspector from 2017 who will have her own views and priorities and it becomes concerning that relying on an Office for Standards without resources to monitor those standards perhaps isn’t the most effective driver of then improving those standards.

Back in 1997, Kylie Minogue released a track called “Some Kind of Bliss” as the opening to a new direction in her career. An expensive video was shot, indie credibility from the Manic Street Preachers brought in and a whole promotional blitz was planned. Then, on the Sunday before, Princess Diana died, the country had a collective weep and went out in their millions and brought Elton John instead. Kylie’s dalliance with indie was consigned to the musical dustbin. Releasing reports designed to improve CEIAG in the wake of the Brexit vote will have as much impact as when an Australian pop princesses tried to grab onto Britpop’s vanishing coat tails.

More Careers inquiry fandango

Recent weeks have seen not one but two sessions on CEIAG held by the joint Education & Business sub-committee. In fact, due to Ministerial illness, a third is soon to come. What a time to be alive.

The first session, with witnesses from the CDI, Careers England, AELP and the West Midlands LEP, was not broadcast as it was held away from the Westminster estate so only a written record has been published while the second session, with witnesses from the Careers Enterprise Company, the National Careers Service and Ofsted, is online for your viewing pleasure.

Across these two sessions there’s a couple of things which peaked my interest.

  1. The CDI are treading very carefully around the funding issue

Suggesting that HE Widening Participation funds be funneled off to help fund careers support might be an idea with merit and fit as a solution to the dropout data but asking funding to be directed from another strand of the social mobility levers isn’t without downsides. Careers work with young people is something that a Government should see as a stand alone good and fund as such. In the current climate, asking Government for cash is a sure fire way to be swiftly shown the meeting room exit door which makes persuasion harder but it shouldn’t be dodged because of this.

The confusion over strategic funding ideals and what this funding gets spent on (see point 5) is also exacerbated by the strong call from all witnesses for Careers Quality Marks to be an integral part of any recommendations put forward by the Committee. This would come with a significant cost for schools currently under huge financial pressure (plus the forthcoming evidence toolkit will surely weaken the argument for quality awards even further, but that’s another blog). The issue of funding needs a joined up message from the CDI and not left to other unions.

2. The National Careers Service offer for young people isn’t being held to account 

Around the 16.30pm mark Joe Billington, the Director of the National Careers Service, is asked how many young people have used the phone service but the conversation is diverted and the answer never comes. The most recent data shows that just 4% of the 25,000 telephone users of the service were 19 or under (page 19). That isn’t enough.

3. Generally, the MPs didn’t seem very well briefed

Around the 16.38pm mark, a number of the MP’s seem shocked to learn that a wealth of data on skills mismatches and employer views on the employability of young people was already readily available even before the Careers Enterprise Company used it to form their “cold spots” map. Both the UKCES Employer Perspectives survey and the annual Employer Skills survey have this information in droves. That these MPs, on this specific sub-committee, looking at this specific issue, were not aware of this is baffling. Amanda Milling MP then goes onto ask about the interaction between business and schools, it’s true that a lot has been published on this subject but, at the very least, could she not be aware of the work from the department she is meant to be scrutinising?

4. Relying on Ofsted to be the all knowing overseer of careers work in schools is a busted flush

They don’t have the time, the capacity nor the inspection framework to do it. It isn’t happening on the scale it needs to now and, with the ongoing move to a school lead system and a new Chief Inspector to be appointed, won’t in the future.

5. This is a lot of strategic stuff without asking, “Day to day, who’s talking to young people?”

For all of this talk about “umbrella” organisations, Quality Marks and websites not a lot of time or attention seems to be focused on who is actually going to enabling this provision for and with young people. To their credit, the CDI are clear in their expectation of suitable CPD and qualification status for professionals and the work of the Careers Enterprise company will help provision levels. Helping schools focus on, fund and find time for careers work to happen seems to be the roll your sleeves up work though nobody wants to roll their sleeves up for.

Side note – If I was a tinfoil hat wearing type I would also note that, last year, the revamped careers duty for schools was released on the 25th March and the Guidance the year before that on April 14. Postponing the Ministerial witness session to beyond those dates this year could allow them to appear in front of the Committee with a new document to offer.