ofsted

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

pupil survey1

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.

ucas5

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.

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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.

dfhpkeovyaaseak

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

ofsted1

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.

 

Is Ofsted delivering the CEIAG goods: 2015 reup

Back in the Autumn of 2013 the inclusion of monitoring the CEIAG statutory duty on schools was newly part of Section 5 Ofsted inspections and I posted about what this was looking like in those first early reports from that academic year. It was clear even from that small sample size that inspectors were taking their time to incorporate the then new requirement into their inspection process and the resulting reports showed an uneven mention of CEIAG provision.

Since then careers has continued to be part of the annually revised Ofsted inspection process. Updates for inspectors came ready for the start of the 2014 academic year and then the 2015 academic year. The careers update this year though, while comprehensive in its wording, needed to be placed in the wider context of the changes to the common inspection framework and the schools inspection handbook.

These changes meant that:

Schools holding an OUTSTANDING rating: are exempt from full Section 5 inspections and will only trigger a shorter, Section 8 inspection if results dip, significant complaints are made from stakeholders, a visit on a thematic survey raises concerns or safeguarding issues are raised.

Schools holding a GOOD rating: Will receive a shorter Section 8 inspection once every 3 years. If the result of this visit is a recommendation to remain GOOD, the school continues to do so. If the Section 8 inspection offers the potential for the school to move to OUTSTANDING or drop to REQUIRES IMPROVEMENT or INADEQUATE then a larger team of inspectors will arrive and carry out a full Section 5 inspection usually within 48 hours.

Schools holding a REQUIRES IMPROVEMENT rating: Will receive another Section 8 monitoring inspection in the same term and, if the rating remains, another Section 5 inspection within two years.

Schools holding a INADEQUATE rating: A whole raft of measures come into play including the Local Authority, further inspection visits and academisation or sponsor change. The Education & Adoption bill is currently travelling through the Houses towards Royal Ascent and will soon narrow the options here.

Section 8 inspections are shorter, more focused visits, usually with less inspectors present at the school. The specific handbook for these visits details the areas inspectors should cover. Inspecting careers provision isn’t mandated or mentioned.

What does this mean?

That Ofsted will spend much less time focusing on schools not causing concern. In fact, budget cuts (Ofsted strategic plan 2014-2016 document details a near £60m cut from 2010 to 2016 page 8) will mean less inspections in total. In 2012/13 they inspected 1334 secondary schools while 2013/14 saw 1048 secondary schools visited.

Using the “Find an inspection report” by date on the Ofsted website the number of Secondary school inspection reports published:

Between 1st September 2013 – 31st October 2013 = 105

Between 1st September 2014 – 31st October 2014 = 133

Between 1st September 2015 – 31st October 2015 = 81

Of those 81 published reports so far this year, many are Section 8 reports with no mention of careers (examples here, here and here). There do continue to be full Section 5 reports as well that do mention careers provision. Some examples:

1. School: Droylsden Academy

Inspection Date: 1/10/2015

http://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/135864

Performance table:

http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/schools/performance/school.pl?urn=135864

Specific mention of Careers/CEIAG/Destinations:

Careers education is largely focused on Key Stage 4 and the transition to college or employment. The academy is building a careers education from Year 7 onwards as part of the drive for greater aspirations and the development of work-related skills and aptitudes.

2. School: Barnsley Academy

Inspection Date: 22/09/2015

http://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/131749

Performance table:

http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/schools/performance/school.pl?urn=131749

Specific mention of Careers/CEIAG/Destinations:

They appreciate the useful information from careers lessons and interviews which help them to reflect on their future education, training or employment prospects.

and for the Sixth Form:

While some students do undertake work experience relevant to their needs, and impartial careers guidance enables most students to develop realistic plans for the future, the overall range of enrichment activities, visits and visitors is too narrow

3. School: Salford City Academy

Inspection Date: 22/09/2015

http://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/135071

Performance table:

http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/schools/performance/school.pl?urn=135071

Specific mention of Careers/CEIAG/Destinations:

The academy provides its students with good careers guidance and advice that helps them to make informed choices about their next steps.

Good careers advice is provided and this is reflected in the number of students gaining university places and in the number of those who also gain employment or training. Advice and guidance processes for students making study choices for GCSE are very thorough and lead to very few pathway changes. The academy is committed to developing students’ understanding of the world of work. All students are encouraged to take part in quality work experience during Year 12. Commitment to work experience is strong and runs alongside well-structured impartial careers advice to support learners’ next steps.

4. School: Trinity Academy

Inspection Date: 22/09/2015

http://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/135007

Performance table:

http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/schools/performance/school.pl?urn=135007

Specific mention of Careers/CEIAG/Destinations:

There is a full programme of careers guidance from Year 7 which builds incrementally as students get older. Students are guided in their choice of subjects and career choices, which includes a number of visiting speakers from local and national firms and professions. However, some students in Key Stages 3 and 4 have mixed views regarding the quality of careers guidance provided. Leaders recognise the need to evaluate this provision against student outcomes.

And in the Sixth Form:

Leaders ensure that all students benefit from external and impartial careers advice so they can make well-informed choices. They provide effective guidance to students entering the sixth form and as they prepare for the next steps in education, training or employment when they leave. As a result, no student leaves without a secure pathway for the future. An increasing number of students take up study places at university, many at the top universities in the country.

5. School: Djanogly City Academy

Inspection Date: 22/09/2015

http://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/134253

Performance table:

http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/schools/performance/school.pl?urn=134253

Specific mention of Careers/CEIAG/Destinations:

Careers professionals and teachers guide students to make appropriate course choices well. All students last year accepted places to follow appropriate courses at the academy or post-16 colleges and schools. The course choices were well suited to the aptitudes and aspirations of the students. The academy takes its responsibility seriously to ensure that students make informed and appropriate choices for the next stage of their education.

But it’s worth noting that all 5 of those schools were rated as INADEQUATE at their previous inspections. More and more schools are being judged as OUTSTANDING or GOOD, the tables at Watchsted tell us 74.5% of England’s 3117 secondary schools are now in either of those two categories. That means that, as a matter of course, only 25.5% of secondary schools will be monitored for their careers provision. For the schools in those top two categories it will be dependant on the processes outlined above.

Everyone concerned with CEIAG in schools seems to agree that Ofsted has a role to play in the quality assurance process. Just last week, Garry Forrest of the British Chambers of Commerce wrote

Inspection of schools is important, so I’m pleased that Ofsted is increasing its focus on this area in the new Common Inspection Framework.

Even Sir Michael recently said

What’s really important for inspections of secondary schools is that HMI ask questions about post-16 provision, whether schools and head teachers of secondary schools are providing youngsters with all the information that they need to make good choices and not restricting that information to get youngsters into their own sixth form.”

What seems to have less awareness though is that Ofsted is changing year on year. The pressure on the Inspectorate to provide authoritative verdicts on a greater range of schools, FE, early years and social care provision is only increasing (the focus on British values as a school example) while their financial capabilities to conduct this work are tightening. Their visits to OUTSTANDING and GOOD schools will be much more infrequent and on a smaller scale. As Ofsted themselves state in the Common Inspection Framework (para 19) “Ofsted is committed to inspecting in a proportionate way so that resources are focused where they are needed most.” This this will mean that this academic year, the instances of an Ofsted inspector being in a secondary school and asking the question, “So, what do you do for your careers work?” are likely to be much fewer than the past two years.

The narrative around schools and apprenticeships needs to change

In an Ofsted report about Apprenticeships that pulls no punches in appropriating blame across stakeholders, careers advice in schools has taken (yet another) admonishing for not “promoting” apprenticeships.

There are still far too few 16- to 18-year-olds starting an apprenticeship. Recruitment onto apprenticeships for young people in this age range has remained static for more than a decade. Interviews with apprentices and evidence from secondary school inspections in 2014/15 showed that schools’ poor promotion of apprenticeships is depriving pupils and their parents of information about the full range of options available through the apprenticeship route. Secondary schools are still not doing enough to promote apprenticeships to young people. Inspectors found that careers advice and guidance were not sufficiently detailed and too few pupils experienced high-quality work experience as part of their compulsory education.

So far, so heard it all before. The accepted narrative goes that apprenticeships are a well-kept secret, a route that thousands of young people would happily opt for if only they knew about them and it’s mean-spirited schools that are keeping a lid on all this goodness so that school leavers stay in their sixth forms and kept the funding dollars rolling in.

So, if that were the whole story, it would mean…

Apprenticeships are all great

The main focus of the report looks at the quality of apprenticeships and tries to offer balance by being clear on the benefits of good apprenticeships and how much young people value them

 The most successful apprenticeships seen were for young people aged 16 to 24, especially in motor vehicle, engineering and construction – sectors that have historically relied on apprenticeships for their future skilled workforce. Younger apprentices working in these sectors told inspectors that their apprenticeships were enabling them to forge a new career, with increasingly challenging tasks as their apprenticeship progressed.

but also draws attention to the large numbers of poor quality ones as well

The quality of the apprenticeship provision reviewed during this survey was too variable and often poor. Some apprenticeships were of a high quality and provided young people with good training that enabled them to develop new skills and knowledge in specialist vocational areas. However, too much provision was weak and failed to provide sufficient training to develop substantial new skills

Ofsted found that in a third of the 45 providers they visited, apprenticeships were not of a sufficient quality. Four of the 8 independent training providers and four of the 10 colleges they visited provided too little training for learners. In 7 of the weaker providers, inspectors found apprenticeships that fell below national funding requirements.

No 16-18 year olds bother applying for them

Nope. Mentioned in the report itself is the fact that

Nationally, considerably more 16- to 18-year-olds apply for apprenticeships than those aged 25 and over, but far fewer become apprentices.

as

Under 19s made 56% of applications but only 27% of starts; 25+ made 7% of applications but 37% of starts (in 2014)

the reasons given for this disparity in the numbers actually taken on by employers is that

When asked why they did not recruit more 16- to 24-year-old apprentices, nearly a quarter of employers who responded said that young people did not have the basic skills, attitudes and behaviours required for work. Additionally, 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.

and that employers were too keen on taking Government funding to accredit existing training schemes for the over 25s.

The ones that are informed enough to apply must have the pick of the quality roles then

Nope

The number of both registrations and applications from the under 19 age group has always vastly outnumbered the vacancies on offer and (in 13/14) just 2% of apprenticeship starts were at the Higher level (page 7).

The story needs to move on

The simple narrative that the problems that beset 16-19 Apprenticeships are a “demand” problem are wide of the mark. From the data above and this report we could conclude that the two intertwining factors that are now putting the brakes on what should be a fantastic pathway are:

  1. Too many of the applicants (and their applications) are not up to the standard employers demand
  2. The entrenched views that employers have on youngsters work readiness means they are unwilling to consider committing the time and effort into possible candidates from that age group

This perceived (and in many cases actual) lack of employability skills of students is an issue careers education (including employer input) should be stepping up to the mark to solve. Elsewhere in the report Ofsted cites UKCES survey findings that only 18% of UK businesses were involved in any work inspiration activities (p134) (while only 16% offer any sort of apprenticeships (p 149). Other research into school & business interaction has found a range of figures. The issues around CEIAG over the past few years have been detailed in-depth across the sector not least on this blog. The small numbers of 16-19 year olds successfully applying for apprenticeships is the outcome of both of these scenarios.

In the meantime, what am I promoting to young people?

Currently, a route that is highly competitive, that offers a slim chance of successfully achieving their goal and, in too many cases, a goal that isn’t even what it says on the tin.

In short, until the quality and quantity of apprenticeships realistically available to the 16-19 age group increases and the level of CEIAG provision also improves in quality, there are going to be many times when conversations in schools about apprenticeships are in danger of doing a good impression of this: