school sixth forms

Submission to the Education Select Committee follow up Careers inquiry

In a continuing series of posts that should really be tagged “Russell gets ideas above his station,” back in July (which means that Ofsted quote isn’t now from our most recent report) I submitted a response to the Education Select Committee’s call for written evidence for its follow-up session in their Careers Guidance investigation. You can find my submission here (PDF) and the rest of the submissions here.

There are some conflicting views and differing opinions but also plenty of common ground in those submissions about which drivers of change the Committee should recommend the DfE to enact and it will be interesting to see what response the raised profile of CEIAG will elicit from the Education Secretary in her session with the Committee on 3rd December compared to the utter dismissal the previous post holder gave.

July 2014

Submission to the Education Select Committee Careers Guidance Follow Up inquiry.

Russell George (personal submission) Careers Co-ordinator Stopsley High School.

Post holder for 5 years as part of a Work Related and Curriculum team at our 11-16 school. Our most recent Section 5 Ofsted Inspection in 2012 rated the guidance for students moving as “Outstanding” and we were visited as part of the Ofsted “Going in the right direction?” Careers report in February 2013. Following this I have been fortunate to be invited to present at national conferences and events. I also blog at https://fecareersiag.wordpress.com/

Executive Summary:

  • The DfE must realise that asking schools to commit staffing and resourcing to this work requires a significant budget commitment and a dedicated member of staff
  • A scale-able system for organising school/employer interaction already exists in the Inspiring the Future website and any overlap with the forthcoming expansion of responsibilities of the National Careers Service should be avoided
  • The current accountability stick of Destination Measures is not enough to override short term decisions made by institutions to funnel students into or keep them on learning routes for funding reasons. Further detail and onus is required
  • Local Authorities have a central role to play in the collaboration across transition points of all local providers of all routes and must improve their post 14 learner data collection but confusion around their input, role and monitoring powers of FE, UTC’s, Studio Schools and Academies means that many gaps, overlaps and dead ends in curriculum and qualifications have been allowed to flourish

Submission

1. Since the Coalition Government came to power, schools that have committed to succeeding in careers work have taken on two large financial commitments to enable this work to continue at a service level similar to what went before. Firstly, they will have either employed or paid to buy in a Careers practitioner to provide guidance to students and to organise employer facing activities which previously were secured through a free service offered by Connexions. Secondly, those schools which still offer some form of work experience in Key Stage 4 now have to pay a service provider for those placements to still occur. Previously local Education Business Partnerships (EBPs) were centrally funded to perform this work. These standard offers of a Careers program can then be further supplemented with trips to national events such as the Skills Show or the Big Bang Fair and tasters to more localised progression routes but still with the costs of staffing and transport to overcome. More overarching schemes such as Career Academies or Pearson’s Think Future scheme allow schools to buy in a wholly packaged service but this has a cost price that reflects this plus they would still need a nominated co-ordinator in school. This sudden extra demand on school budgets was noted in the recent Gatsby Foundation report “Good Career Guidance1” and the figures they quote for organising each of those activities are, in my experience, realistic. Placing a new requirement on schools and then having Ofsted monitor the implementation of this requirement is sensible but does beg the question that, if Careers, Education, Information & Guidance (CEIAG) work is deemed now to be an accountable aspect of a school’s purpose, should this not be funded as such?

2. Since the updated Careers guidance was released in April 2014, it has been trailed that The National Careers Service will have an extended role to play in encouraging and facilitating school and employer engagement. The Committee should note that a working and highly successful model for this is already in place. The free Inspiring The Future website2 run by the Education & Employers Taskforce allows volunteers from a vast range of organisations and job roles to sign up to offer their time to schools. Schools are then able to contact the volunteers through the site and organise bespoke events from assemblies to group sessions to Careers fairs. Any new offer from the National Careers Service would need to tread carefully so not to needlessly overlap the Inspiring The Future service and find a niche not already catered for. In recent years a raft of organisations and schemes with similar employer/school interaction goals have sprung up such as MyKindaCrowd or National Careers week, employers such as Barclays have set up their own Lifeskills offer, business groups such as Business in the Community and CIPD have their own schemes and regional bodies have grown out of the ashes of EBPs to facilitate this work. For employers wishing to engage with schools this landscape is extremely confusing with all of these competing bodies offering structure and access. This area needs simplification, not the addition of a repetitive new organisation. Without the political will to implement or fund a national structure for school/employer collaboration the Committee should stress to the Government to look to support and expand what is already there.

3. Working in a secondary school without a Sixth Form immediately changes the freedoms and onus of my role. In his evidence session with the Committee on Careers in December 2013, Michael Gove refused to acknowledge the negative impact on CEIAG that the pressures and assumptions placed on students to stay in the school’s own Sixth Form can have. Anybody who has worked in secondary education can tell you this is a palpably false assertion. The DfE has introduced the inclusion of Destination Measure statistics as a monitoring tool to, in some extent, combat this practice but felt that the publishing of a Careers Plan as suggested by the Committee was an administrative step too far. Destination Measures in their current form do not have the accountability clout to alter school’s behaviour in this regard. The forthcoming changes to the accountability system in 2016 have been universally welcomed for placing the progress of every child at the heart of school accountability. Destination Measures must be included in these changes. In the DfE document “Reforming the accountability system for secondary schools3” October 2013 it is stated that a fifth statistic of a sustained destination percentage is desired but that the underlying data must be “robust” enough for this to be including as one of the headline figures schools will be required to publish in a uniform format. The Committee should press the Government to ensure that progress is being made in ensuring the stability of this data from Local Authorities and secure a commitment that these statistics will form a headline part of the new accountability structure. This public accountability would then dovetail with the welcome inclusion of a CEIAG focus in Section 5 Ofsted inspections and the future data to be collected on school alumni employment and benefit outcomes as recently included in the Small Business bill.

4. As well as the impetus on Local Authorities to secure robust 14-19 transition and destination data, further clarification should be requested from the DfE on their requirements to ensure collaboration of education and training providers across Key Stages in their region. A number of recent policies have aims and outcomes which, with local oversight, school led CEIAG can aid. Without local oversight the recent growth in school Sixth Forms at academy schools have the potential to prove poor value for money and increase the pressure on schools to protect revenue streams. Without local oversight the recent growth in UTC and Studio School provision to offer new choices to students at 14 will continue to struggle to enrol students leading to more high-profile closures. Without local oversight, employers will struggle to inform Colleges and training providers of their future labour force needs and the demands of the future localised labour market. Without local oversight, CEIAG becomes a threat to providers conscientious of their reputations and of the competition for enrolment numbers. With local oversight, transparent and informed CEIAG can motivate students to succeed in the routes and paths most relevant to them benefiting all local providers, the regional economy and, most importantly, the students themselves.

  1. http://www.gatsby.org.uk/GoodCareerGuidance
  2. http://www.inspiringthefuture.org/
  3. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/249893/Consultation_response_Secondary_School_Accountability_Consultation_14-Oct-13_v3.pdf

 

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How Ofsted will inspect Careers IAG in schools from September 2014

2015 Update here:

https://fecareersiag.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/how-ofsted-will-inspect-careers-iag-in-schools-from-september-2015/

Things never stand still. Especially in education and especially over the last 4 years.

It has been almost a year since I published this post on how, the then newly published, Ofsted handbook instructed inspectors to evaluate a school’s CEIAG provision during Section 5 inspections in the 2013/14 academic year and, carrying on the flow of change, today Ofsted have released an updated handbook (PDF) to guide inspectors during their work in schools in the 2014/15 academic year. CEIAG is still included in the Leadership and Management section but the wording has (as has for most areas  in this new, truncated edition) changed.

So, Ofsted inspectors in 2014/15 will be primed to look for (page 43):

154. Inspectors should explore:
 the extent to which the school has developed and implemented a
strategy for ensuring that all pupils in Years 8 to 13 receive effective
careers guidance
 the impact of this guidance in helping young people to make
informed choices about their next steps
 how well the school meets the needs of all vulnerable groups of
pupils, including reducing the numbers who do not continue to
education, employment or training
 how well the school works with families to support them in
overcoming the cultural obstacles that often stand in the way of the
most able pupils from deprived backgrounds attending university.

A few points to note:

  • “Inspectors should explore” means they won’t just be talking to the Professionals in the school, I would still expect them to ask students their views on the quality of the CEIAG they have received.
  • “The impact of this guidance” could mean that, in your Ofsted box of evidence, it might be handy to have not just Destination data but case studies of students who have made successful transitions after attending tasters, visits, workshops etc
  • The focus on NEETS is pretty clear

So far, so good but there are a couple of things I take issue with:

  • There isn’t a hyperlink to the Careers Statutory Guidance in the document. Minor quibble but it would’ve been better to wave it under inspector’s noses a bit.
  • “overcoming the cultural obstacles that often stand in the way of the most able pupils from deprived backgrounds attending university”…Not a Apprenticeship but University. Oh dear, parity of routes?
  • There is no mention of CEIAG in the Grade Descriptors for Leadership and Management section from page 49. So a school’s CEIAG provision should be checked to see if it is outstanding or terrible or anywhere in-between but it seems this will have no impact on the actual grade awarded for this section and so, the overall grade.

And that’s it for the main school guidance. Until you get to Page 79 as this year, after consultation, Ofsted will offer a separate grade for a school’s Sixth Form provision and so has equipped inspectors with a dedicated section in the handbook for this. The relevant CEIAG paragraph reads:

The school provides good, impartial careers education, information, advice and
guidance prior to starting post-16 courses. Students are aware of their choices
following completion of their post-16 study programme.

“Impartiality” gets a specific here which would require some questions to be asked of current Sixth Form students by inspectors while, I would imagine, for schools without Sixth Forms like mine, this would be subsumed into checks on the first bullet point in the whole school guidance above.

With regard to CEIAG, last year’s handbook had a tricky task of bolting on a whole new area for inspectors to check into already stuffed schedules for inspection teams in schools and this years probably has just as difficult a job to achieve. While the Careers Statutory Guidance has expanded, the Ofsted handbook has been slimmed down  so the complexity of the requirements and suggestions in the Guidance does seem a little lost in translation and leaves greater room for, depending on your point of view, either schools to be able to tell their individualized CEIAG back-stories to inspectors or allow a greater lack of consistency in judgments.