Quality Awards

The 2017 Careers Strategy: Making the most of everyone’s skills and talents

This morning at the annual CDI conference the Government has announced the publication of it’s long awaited Careers Strategy.

Link to the Strategy:

Click to access Careers_strategy.pdf

Link to the Press Release:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/careers-guidance-for-modern-country-unveiled

Links to media coverage:

https://www.tes.com/news/further-education/breaking-news/government-launches-new-careers-strategy

https://schoolsweek.co.uk/careers-strategy-the-4-main-proposals-for-schools/

 

Links to stakeholder reaction:

http://www.naht.org.uk/welcome/news-and-media/key-topics/leadership/careers-guidance/

http://ersa.org.uk/media/news/government-launches-its-long-awaited-careers-strategy

http://www.cbi.org.uk/news/introducing-dedicated-careers-leaders-should-give-careers-inspiration-much-needed-prominence-in-schools/

 

 

There are lots of smaller announcements in the document. Whether or not these add up to form a coherent strategy will remain to be seen. Some of the announcements of new provision do come with added funding but, it should be clear, that these funding levels are well below the historic Connexions funding and below the required funding outlined via the Gatsby report.

Practitioners will go through the document with a fine tooth comb looking for sections which most impact their work, accordingly I have concentrated on announcements to do with school and college careers work. There is plenty in the Strategy to do with adult careers services as well.

Below are some of the bits that jumped out at me on first reading

A: A new website for the National Careers Service is coming

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B: A Careers Leader job description will also be published while schools will need to publish the contact details of this person and the provision their schools provide from September 2018. The list of responsibilities of a Careers Leader may well end the historic careers in schools cliche of teachers taking the role in a few free timetable slots.

The funding for training Careers Leaders is welcome but it should be acknowledged that is it for 500 schools (approx £8000 per school). There are currently 3408 secondary schools.

Previously Connexions was funded approx £200m annually while the Gatsby report concluded that (from it’s second year) a funded schools Careers programme would cost £44,676 per academic year or over £152m an academic year for the current number of secondary schools.

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C: 20 “Careers hubs” look like an expansion of the North East Enterprise Partnership Gatsby pilot. Will these match with Opportunity Areas and will each Hub employ their own Co-ordinator as the pilot did

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D: A firm challenge to the Quality in Careers Consortium. Despite lobbying for a required status, the Strategy retains the “recommeded” nature of Quality Standards and clearly demands that their invigilation and inspection requirements are strengthened to meet the Gatsby Standards. The recent results from the Compass self evaluation tool show that this will be a big change.

careersstrat3

E: CEIAG provision in primary schools will be getting it’s own funding boost and research to see what works for young people at this stage of education

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F: A handy timeline of when all the components of the Strategy will come online

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G: For many years policy makers have been calling for a centralised portal for applying for vocational courses – the Strategy says this could happen and it would be hosted on the National Careers Service website

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H: Schools should be putting on a Careers Fair, speed dating or work experience type event for every year group, every academic year

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I: New Statutory guidance is coming in January 2018 – which is also the crux of the biggest problem with the strategy

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There are other small pots of funding allocated throughout, £5m in 2018 for a further round of Careers & Enterprise Company investment funding for example, but the ultimate aim of the document is to push the system towards offering a Gatsby Standards level of provision without the Gatsby Standards invoice.

Also missing is any notion of accountability or monitoring for these changes. The research arm of the Careers & Enterprise Company is churning out publications highlighting impact of past provision but the Strategy makes no mention of tracking impacts of provision on cohorts of students.

The CEC State of the Nation report

The latest publication from the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) continuing their expanding library of research, State of the Nation 2017: Careers and enterprise provision in England’s schools was published earlier this month. Utilizing the “State of the Nation” title also employed by the annual updates from the Social Mobility Commission (and so helping affirm the aims of the CEC with policy makers), this is a publication which shows the Company moving on from earlier releases which audited the CEIAG landscape and onto a new stage of updating on progress made.

The report is based on 578 responses from secondary schools who have completed the online Careers program auditing tool, Compass, and the comparison of this set of data with the data collected for the original Gatsby Good Career guidance report in 2014.

The CEC makes a number of claims from this exercise but the accompanying media coverage focused on the responses which indicate an improvement in school provision since 2014 as more schools report that they are meeting more benchmarks.

There is evidence of improvement since the original Gatsby survey in 2014. Schools in 2016/2017 are achieving an average of half a Benchmark more than they were in 2014/2015 (1.87 versus 1.34). The proportion of schools not achieving any Benchmarks has fallen by one third from 31% to 21%. The proportion of schools achieving half the Benchmarks has more than doubled from 6% to 16%

Which sounds positive but these are figures which should be treated with caution and, like the rest of the report, taken in the round alongside other data. These are the points I found most interesting in the report:

1. This is a small number of schools and a narrow method of evidence collection

As can be seen in the Appendices, the 2014 Gatsby report used multiple sources of evidence to form it’s benchmarks, recommendations and costings. Six overseas visits took place with interviews with practitioners, policy makers and stakeholders in these countries conducted. Visits and interviews with six Independent schools also added to the evidence base as well as reviewing eighteen previous reports on CEIAG provision. Finally an online survey was completed by 361 secondary schools in winter 2014.

gatsby school profiles

The breakdown of the responding schools

As a baseline, 361 schools (from approximately  3329 secondary schools at the time) is a thin slice so it’s positive that 578 have used the Compass tool but this is still small. The 2014 figures included only 9 schools then judged as Requiring Improvement by Ofsted, the 2017 report does not include this figure. In 2017 there are now 3408 secondary schools in England so 578 equates to roughly 17% of secondary schools responding.

2. This is based on self evaluation

Asking any professional if they do a good job isn’t going to get objective responses. Both the 2014 and 2017 reports are clear to point out that questions of validity could arise both from the bias of the overall sample (those taking the time to complete the survey could be more likely to be interested in CEIAG for example) and responses being overly generous to the CEIAG provision on offer in their establishment (via the Overconfidence Effect).

None of this data relates to outcomes. No students are asked by an objective third party on their view of provision, no destination data monitored, no LEO data cross referenced, no employers surveyed. Self evaluation via online questionnaire is an extremely limited (but cheap) method of providing reference points and progress evaluation.

This is typified by the inclusion of one of the case study schools that reported itself to be meeting “seven or eight” of the Gatsby benchmarks. Looking at the most recent KS4 destination data (2015) for that school, you can see that all of the data that a school with a strong CEIAG offer should be achieving well on, the school isn’t:

  • Pupils staying staying in education or employment for at least 2 terms after KS4 is 86%, well below the 94% average for English state funded schools
  • Pupils not staying in education or employment for at least 2 terms after KS4 is 11% well above the 5% national average
  • The percentage of KS4 leavers moving into Apprenticeships is 3%, half the nation average of 6%

It’s important to remember that behind all of those statistics are the actual students who each had their own story, background and challenges to overcome but these are not the statistics to highlight the positive social justice leveling work of CEIAG,

The report references these omissions on page 26 and makes the somewhat valid point that

One limitation of attainment and progression data is that it is backward looking and thus if we look for relationships between the Compass data and outcomes, we are comparing one cohort’s career provision with another cohort’s outcomes

and conclude that the destination data sources mentioned above could be used to correlate with Compass data over a longer period of time. This would enable relationships (if any) between consistent quality CEIAG provision and student outcomes to be found. This is an admirable goal to be supported in future but it isn’t how accountability in education works. Ofsted gradings are held by schools for years after the inspection took place, a young person leaving Year 11 this summer might have attended an “outstanding” school but could be based on a verdict of provision that happened seven years ago. There is always a lag between monitoring of provision and actual provision.

3. Further bad social mobility vibes

Another of the included case studies is also a little tone deaf for an organisation that is keen to show that it playing it’s role in the Government’s social mobility agenda through the Opportunity Area policy. Including Simon Langton Girls Grammar School, a selective entry school whose pupils, including the 5.6% eligible for free school meals, must take the Kent Procedure for Entrance to Secondary Education tests to enrol is at odds with the overall aim of both the document and the CEC.  The CEIAG work at Simon Langton might be exceptional, it certainly features prominently on their website, but this is not helping disadvantaged pupils. Areas with selection at age 11 fail the poorest children and the CEC should steer clear of involving itself in work that perpetuates these outcomes.

4. If the survey responses are to be believed, then Quality Mark Awards are far too generous

The 2017 data survey data reports that schools that hold a Careers Quality Mark (now all joined together in the Quality in Careers Standard) achieve a higher number of Gatbsy benchmarks than those schools without but that this still only reaches an average of 2.63 of the 8 benchmarks for those schools. This is a blow to those who advocate that Quality Marks are a valid indicator of provision quality. The results of a self reported survey, including the biases mentioned above, are reporting that their CEIAG provision does not meet the benchmarks the external monitored Quality Marks claim they do. That there is so little congruence between these results is evidence that Careers Quality Marks assessment and monitoring processes have not been anywhere near stringent or demanding enough and need to improve. As the report says

As the Quality in Careers Standard works towards aligning fully with the Benchmarks we would expect to see schools achieving the Quality in Careers Standard reaching all eight Benchmarks

but this will be a challenge for a service paid for by the schools who have volunteered to be inspected to achieve.

Showing the impact of the type of strategic work the CEC is involved with is always going to be difficult. With so many stakeholders involved in the delivery of provision and so many factors influencing the outcomes for young people, concentrating on the input factors to begin with is sensible but, due to a total reliance on self evaluation, this is also with it’s downsides. Over the forthcoming months I would expect to see the CEC to transition towards utilizing more quantitative data sources on which to base their judgments of progress.

The bit the Sub-Committee left out

It’s been days, whole 24 hour periods of time have passed, since a report has been published by some organisation or another on the state of Careers work in English schools. So, this week, the Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy decided to break the silence by publishing the first Joint Report of the Business, Innovation and Skills and Education Committees of Session 2016-2017.

This followed the usual Committee procedure of taking written evidence, visiting providers and taking oral evidence from witnesses.

The inquiry itself was a follow up to the Education Committee inquiry published back in July (my take on that here) as the Sub-Committee felt that the Government response was lacklustre.

The Sub-Committee report reiterates many of the phrases and conclusions seen before across the multitude of Careers reports in the past few years. Careers provision in schools is “patchy,” drink. Schools with Sixth Forms are “reluctant to provide impartial advice and guidance,” drink. That the marketplace for Careers services to schools and students is “overly complicated,” drink. Like a wedding band Beatles, the report covers all the hits.

One aspect that was noticeable though on my reading, is that the Sub-Committee likes spending schools money.

Recommendation 2

An effective school careers programme should include a combination of impartial and independent advice and guidance, careers education embedded in the curriculum, and opportunities for students to engage with employers. We consider the Gatsby Foundation’s eight benchmarks a useful statement of the careers provision to which all schools should be aspiring. The Government’s policy objective should be to incentivise all schools to ensure their careers provision is brought up to a good standard and to hold them to account when they fail to do so.

Recommendation 10

We recommend that the Government, once the new quality brand is in place, amend statutory guidance to require all schools to work towards being accredited under this brand, and only to use careers services from organisations holding it.

Recommendation 11

We recommend that the Government statutory guidance is amended to require those delivering advice and guidance in schools to hold, at a minimum, a relevant level 6 qualification.

Recommendation 18

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.

Those four recommendations aren’t the only ones that relate directly to schools but those are the ones that come with a £ cost attached. How much? Well, the Gatbsy report which is much quoted my the Sub-Committee has already done the hard yards here and included a cost breakdown for schools wanting to reach it’s benchmarks. For all secondary schools in England this reaches a rough figure of £181m. The costing laid out in the Gatsby report include an annual £15,000 for CPD and £8,000 for organising the health & safety and administration requirements needed for a work experience program, so that covers Recommendations 11 and 18.

What isn’t included in the Gatsby costing though is funding for Quality Awards inspection. Again, I’ve previously calculated that this would be around £5.71m for every school in England to achieve one.

So, from this one report, that’s £186.71m schools are expected to find from their existing budgets with £181m of that to be found every academic year.

School funding is extremely tight with the number of schools running deficits growing. There is plenty else in the Sub-Committee report that I could take issue with (the reliance on an inspectorate who won’t even visit around 20% of schools to inspect CEIAG for example) but it’s the complete lack of consideration of how schools are going to fund the recommendations they put forward that deserves the greatest annoyance.

 

 

 

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.

 

What’s the point of Careers quality marks for schools?

 

There is much the Careers community would like to see happen to improve CEIAG provision in schools, the use of Level 6 trained, CDI registered guidance professionals, dedicated funding, a published careers plan for each school and the widespread use of Careers Quality Awards as a road-map towards and validation of improved provision have all been mooted. Not many of these seem to have much chance of ever becoming DfE policy but all (in the eyes of the professional Careers bodies) would achieve in some way what we’re all looking to achieve; they would aid improvement. Or…would they?

In this post, I want to cover some of the issues and unanswered questions I have with Careers Quality marks both as a method of improvement and validation of a high standard of provision. Currently, according to Careers England, there are 12 Quality Awards that have met the Quality in Careers Standard which is the quality award for careers quality awards. The careers rubber stamp king of careers rubber stamps if you will. Some of these 12 awards have their own websites:

http://www.careermark.co.uk/

http://www.investorincareers.org.uk/

but all follow roughly the same procedure – School pays membership fee and gains access to the Standards document > School prepares evidence to meet standards > School sends in evidence for assessment > School pays further fee for assessment day costs > Assessment day > Award of standard > Perhaps two or four years later, re-validation

The reasons usually given in praise of careers quality marks plus my issues with them are:

1. They provide a roadmap for schools to guide them on their journey of CEIAG improvement

The standards documents I have seen from some of the different awards do seem to be very thorough and the evidence base that would be needed to comply with them would be significant but they are documents held behind a paywall, in the case of CareersMark a £90 fee for an annual membership. What value is held in those documents which isn’t found in the DfE guidance documents for CEIAG in schools? The NFER audit and guidance documents? The CDI toolkit? Janet Colledge’s website? These and other resources freely available just a Google search away perform exactly the same function. To justify a pay wall those standards must truly hold some individual value which leads me to point 2.

2. They are validation of not just good practice but practice that works

With the introduction of Destination Measures into league table data and Ofsted inspections schools already inhabit a world where the value of their wider careers work can be judged by outcomes. It’s not perfect but it’s a start and with the planned (postponed but definitely coming at some point) inclusion of more detailed Destination Measures into the forthcoming 2016 accountability changes, the focus on the actual employment and learning outcomes schools achieve for their young people is only going to increase.

With this in mind, a school, paying up to £2000 for a Careers Mark inspection, should be asking, “Is what they’re looking at, not only good practice but practice that has an impact?” Do the activities and CEIAG provision which would meet the Award’s Standards actually have a discernible impact on outcomes? The research work of the Education & Employers Taskforce has raised the bar in this area and is symptomatic of a growing trend in education now that the budget squeeze is really being felt. Policy makers and school leaders want to know what works, they want clear direction on what outcomes will be achieved for what investment. Proof of this can seen in the rise of the ResearchED movement, the spreading work of the Education Endowment Foundation and the rapid uptake and dissemination of the Sutton Trust pupil premium toolkit over the last few years. When school leaders were given a dedicated funding stream for pupils on free school meals, they wanted clear guidance on how to get the most bang for their buck. CEIAG expenditure in schools will be no different so the data needs to show

a) For schools that hold your Quality Award, how much lower is their NEET average over the last 3 years of leavers compared to the national average?

b) For schools that hold your Quality Award, how much lower is their Education Destination not Sustained (using the formula on the DfE Performance tables) percentage over the last 3 years worth of leavers than the national average?

c) Using the data sets utilised by the Education & Employers Task force, how much higher is the average wage of leavers from these schools than the national average 5 or 10 years after they left Year 11?(granted, there may be lag issues with this one)

d) For schools that hold your quality award how higher is the percentage of students securing an Apprenticeship within 12 months of leaving Year 11 than the national average?

Crunch the data for those questions and Careers Quality Awards have a chance of justifying their initial short-term costs to school leaders.

3. They add value to your school with current and future stakeholders

Schools like certificates to hang in their receptions and logos to put on their letterheads. Artsmarks, Investors in People awards, Challenge Awards, Sports Marks and all sorts of other validation proudly adorn Headteacher office walls up and down the country. School leaders feel their institution benefits from holding such awards, that they carry some weight with the public, parents and potential staff and help raise their reputation and standing. Ask any potential parent or member of staff though about what really influences their view on a school (other than results or perhaps the local grapevine) and your answer is likely to be “Ofsted.” Their verdict is near paramount and, as Ofsted are now specifically tasked to monitor CEIAG provision, more schools will* have an official verdict on the quality of their provision to highlight to stakeholders if they so wish

(*at this point some readers may raise their hand and point out the recent Careers England work which showed a majority of inspections last academic year did not include a reference or verdict on CEIAG provision. The solution to this simply cannot be to ask schools to find funds from existing budgets to pay other organisations to do this work but to actually ensure that the inspectorate with the £168m annual budget of public money is doing what it has been tasked to do)

The value that the wider public associate with a verdict from the Ofsted brand (despite the current whirlwind of criticism it is facing from the educational world) simply can’t be matched by a careers quality award.

It is these doubts over the perceived benefit versus the £ cost, the worth of what is actually being validated versus the data already publicly available and what extra opportunities it would bring to my school that have, so far, held me back from journeying along the careers quality mark route.