Quality in Careers Standard

The CEC Implementation & Careers Hub Plans

When it finally came, the Careers Strategy placed a lot of emphasis on the work of the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) so far and even increased the scope of the organisations work in the future. Alongside the actual implementation responsibilities of schools, practitioners and other stakeholders, the CEC was tasked with a broader range of targets and policies beyond increasing employer engagement which had been it’s main remit up until now. These extra strands of provision for the CEC to coordinate show that the organisation is consolidating it’s position as the Government’s core organising force across careers policy for young people in England.

The Strategy set out that through to 2020 the CEC would oversee

  • schools and Colleges wider Careers provision across all of the Gatsby benchmarks
  • a £5m investment fund for careers provision for disadvantaged pupils
  • the collaborative discussion to define the Careers Leader role
  • the £4m funding pot for the training programme for around 500 Careers Leaders
  • to initiate and support 20 Careers Hubs across the country with another £5m pot of funding
  • Triple their “Cornerstone” employer contacts to 150
  • link every school and college with an Enterprise Adviser and boost the number of employer encounters to at least one a year from years 7 to 13

This will be a significant expansion both in responsibilities and the staffing needed to meet them for the CEC.

Soon (March 9th 2018) after the publication of the Strategy, the CEC responded with a (draft) Implementation Plan that set out how they would achieve and measure achievement of those policy actions. The draft plan states that

  • the £5m investment fund will be split with £2.5m directed towards increasing employer encounters and the other £2.5m invested into funding and testing personal guidance models
  • the £4m Careers Leader training funds will be open to schools who are members of the new Career Hubs but also not in Career Hubs

and also asked for submissions of feedback. The final version was released 9th April 2018 with a few cosmetic changes and some additional photographs but only the following substantive alterations to the text

Final version:

  • Acknowledges that Careers Hubs should not replicate local networks “Where other local structures are already established, we will look to engage these networks to avoid duplication and coordinate effort”
  • Allocates around £1000 central Hub fund per school for activities
  • Includes the need to collaborate with experts in STEM & SEND when learning from pilots
  • Includes the need to encompass existing quality measures in outcome research such as the Matrix Standard and Careers Quality Awards
  • promises the inclusion of the CDI Framework of Learning Outcomes when looking at an individuals outcomes when measuring impact

So whatever submissions were made only asked for or gained small-scale changes. We do know that Careers England submitted a response which I felt was measured in its welcoming tone for much of the plan but also asked the most pertinent question regarding whether the funding available is sufficient to meet the high aspirations of the Plan.

Careers Hubs

Alongside the Final Plan were published the details on the Career Hubs policy including the prospectus for interested collaborative groups to apply. A Careers Hub is essentially the CEC version of a middle tier now represented by Regional School Commissioners in the world of academy management. In 2014 the DfE realised that it could not possibly performance manage the huge number of academies in the English system from a central organisation so inserted a layer of middle tier accountability and guidance into a system not well designed to accommodate it. It seems that the CEC has learnt from this and, after first running the North East LEP pilot scheme, are building a structure to encourage growth in quality and accountability first rather than merely hoping sporadic support would see a coherent system flourish.

The plans for Hubs are ambitious. They require groups of schools (20-40) to collaborative together and with other local stakeholders to build each schools provision across the Gatsby benchmarks.

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They are ambitious as they require buy in from lots of stakeholders and providers who will be tempted by the organisational and (slight) funding support on offer but may also be tentative in their support as Hubs have the potential to overlap or replace local partnership and structures already in place. (Much like the Careers Leader role, the balance between adhering to centrally dictated structures and not trampling on locally founded solutions is not something found without willingness to change from practitioners) Meanwhile, organisers in locales without strong current networking structures or those providing services in deprived areas (outside of defined Opportunity Areas who have a separate process) will, I hope, be champing at the bit to put forward a proposal for a Careers Hub.

The fist hurdle to overcome for any Enterprise Co-ordinator or Council Skills Development Manager will be a challenging one though. The initial expression of interest deadline is 24th April 2018 and the Excel Eligibility checker reply document asks the respondent questions which refer to the commitment and capacity of all involved schools. An Organiser diligently completing this form could be sending and chasing replies from up to 40 schools within 11 working days and some will also have to contend with the fact that their schools will still be on Easter break until the 16th, leaving only 7 working days to collate responses. The truth will be that many of the initial interest submissions will be sent without consultation from all potential participants as Organisers will hope to consult and gain buy in from schools in the period until the 24th May 2018 deadline for the whole application form to be submitted. The FAQ (Appendix F) explains that Hub bids will be able to swap around up to 10% of named schools before the scheme starts so this allows some flex for Organisers unable to secure buy in from schools.

Employer Encounters Fund

The £2.5m fund for Employer Encounters will accessible to “some” schools in Careers Hubs through “virtual wallets” obtained through a separate bidding process for Hubs.  These encounters will be available to purchase from providers approved by the CEC. Local providers of employer engagement will be keenly awaiting the May publication of the CEC approved provider list.

Hub Leads

Each of the 20 Hubs will be supported by the CEC to recruit a Hub Lead on a salary of £40,000-£50,000 plus expenses. This adds a significant new role into the careers landscape and one that will have plenty of current Enterprise Co-ordinators scouring  the job description (Appendix C) and thinking that they already perform many of the duties listed.

Conclusion

The Hub proposals look very enticing and those involved with the policy over the next few academic years should be excited at the promises of support on offer from the CEC. The prospectus includes many references to those schools outside of Hubs who will still be able to access funding for Careers Leader training funds and other CEC services but not the Employer Encounters funding. As only “some” schools in Hubs will be allocated this, there is certainly the potential for schools to be in different speed lanes for the support with their Careers provision over the next few years. A school that is part of a Hub and meeting their commitments in the Hub Memorandum of Understanding while also receiving financial support for Careers Leader training, Employer Encounter funding and the other guidance and support from the CEC and their Enterprise Co-ordinators would be in a very different position to a school without those advantages. If this offer is open in your area, take it up, and if your Council Lead or Enterprise Co-ordinator hasn’t submitted a bid, be asking them why not. There might well be good reasons for not wanting to be involved (a belief in established local networks for example), but for cash and resource starved CEIAG practitioners wanting to offer quality provision in their school, being part of a Careers Hub trial certainly looks like a rocket boost to being to achieve that.

 

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.

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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.