statutory guidance

The apprenticeship accountability hole in the Careers Strategy

Now that the Careers Strategy and both the subsequent Statutory Guidance for Schools and the Guidance for Colleges and Sixth Forms has been published, thoughts turn to not just implementation of the ambitions contained in all 3 documents but how the progress of the sector (and Government) will be measured against them.

A cornerstone of both the Careers Strategy and the Statutory Guidance for Schools is the need to improve the awareness of and the aspiration to apply for apprenticeship routes in young people.

The Careers Strategy decrees that the new Baker Clause law will ensure that young people are, ” are clear about the opportunities offered by technical, employment-focused education” (para 32). It highlights the work and the resources offered by the Apprenticeship Ambassador Network as a way of promoting the route. STEM apprenticeships should be promoted (para 44), the £4m funded training for 500 of the newly defined Career Leader posts in schools will include information about apprenticeships and the revamped National Careers Service website will include apprenticeship information as well as allowing young people to apply for vacancies through the site.

Meanwhile, the Statutory Guidance for Schools again is clear on the requirement to include information on apprenticeships in careers provision and promotes organisations such as Amazing Apprenticeships and the ASK Apprenticeship scheme as well as the steps needed for a school to be compliant with the Baker Clause (paras 61-69).

This is all to be welcomed by Careers practitioners in schools looking for more power to their elbow to help them prepare an impartial careers programme. What is missing though from both documents and, it seems, wider Department For Education thinking is how this provision will be evaluated. The Statutory Guidance document includes reference to how Ofsted will evaluate the outcomes of this work

Destination Measures

A successful careers guidance programme will also be reflected in higher numbers of pupils progressing to positive destinations such as apprenticeships, technical routes, sixth form colleges, further education colleges, universities or employment. Destination measures provide clear and comparable information on the success of schools in helping all of their pupils take qualifications that offer them the best opportunity to continue in education or training.

in their Section 5 inspections. If the entire evaluation of this theme of the Careers Strategy and Guidance is just these (sometimes very infrequent) inspections of schools below Outstanding grade) looking at destinations of KS4 & KS5 leavers, then a lot of schools will be harshly judged for their work.

We know that employers favour hiring older employees for their apprenticeships as Ofsted laid out in their 2015 report “Apprenticeships: developing skills for future prosperity (para 26).

While still early after the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, it should also be noted that the number of Level 2 apprenticeships accessible for school leavers is falling while the growth is in the higher Degree Level apprenticeships, many of which are not new positions but current employees taking new training.

This further narrowing in the number of opportunities for young people to actually progress into means that using only destination measures to monitor the success of careers provision is a metric weighed heavily against schools.

A much fairer way would be to measure both the aspiration of young people to progress into an apprenticeship route and then the number of applications made. At institutional level, collecting this data would be the responsibility of the Careers Leader but at regional and national level, the Government should surely be collating this.

The intentions of young people are regularly assessed by the DfE in their Omnibus Survey series of surveys, the most recent of which shows that apprenticeships still have a journey to make to become a first choice for significant numbers of students

That being said, as Ofsted noted above, young people have always been the largest cohort of registrations and applications on the Find An Apprenticeship portal as the spreadsheets here show. As you can see from the number of registrations by age and number of applications by age spreadsheets, interest from those 19 and under has always outstripped the supply of vacancies.

The problem is that the DfE has now stopped publishing these figures. This will be a substantive hole in the accountability data for the success of the Careers Strategy and the Statutory Guidance for schools.

Judging the progress and impact of the Careers Strategy and Statutory Guidance for schools is a wide reaching task but one that will only possible in any meaningful, quantifiable way, if data such as the number of applications for apprenticeships made young people of school leaver age is collected and published. The DfE should rethink their decision to stop publishing these stats.

 

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A letter to the new Careers Statutory Guidance for schools January 2018

So, we meet again, my old friend the Careers Statutory Guidance for schools. It’s been a long journey we’ve been on, you and I. It was way back in 2012 that you first appeared, much slimmer than your current form and with an almost naive belief that your lack of specificity or detail would encourage schools to cope with a new set of responsibilities suddenly thrust upon them.

Since then, year by year, you’ve grown and expanded. In 2013 you talked more about the “responsibilities” of a school

perhaps fearful that schools hadn’t paid much attention to your first appearance.

In 2014, you updated again, this time shaped by Matt Hancock who included much more on the positives of school/employer interaction.

By your 2015 incarnation, you were approaching a level of detail that brought warmer words from the professional bodies. The references to Quality Awards, employer engagement, professional face to face guidance where at least there, if the wording of could/should/must still sparked debate. By now though the continual expansion of the Duty document and the recommendations contained were in danger of designing a roof without worrying about the walls.

And so we reach your latest edition, “Careers Guidance and access for education and training providers January 2018” which is your most comprehensive to date. I understand that you can’t really help this bloat, since your inception the landscape around you has grown and you have to acknowledge this. You have to reference:

  • Careers & Enterprise Company
  • The recent Careers Strategy
  • The Baker Clause
  • What Ofsted will inspect
  • The Gatbsy benchmarks
  • Compass
  • Local Enterprise Partnerships

and all of the things still to come

careers stat jan 2018

I want to commend you on much of your content, you’re full of recommendations and suggestions that Careers professionals working in schools would heartily agreed with. Of course Careers Leaders (to use your terminology) would want to include providers of all routes in their careers work, track and monitor the destinations of students, challenge work stereotypes, engage with employers, contract personal providers, consider and plan for the skills needs of the local labour market and work with all relevant stakeholders for the good of all pupils. The detail is there on how to achieve these things, the resources to use, the steps to take, the clarity provided by the Gatbsy benchmarks is wholly helpful.

You outline the “why” we want to achieve these things in a way that, again, would be music to a Careers professionals’ ears

good careers guidance connects learning to the future. It motivates young people by giving them a clearer idea of the routes to jobs and careers that they will find engaging and rewarding. Good careers guidance widens pupils’ horizons, challenges stereotypes and raises aspirations. It provides pupils with the knowledge and skills necessary to make successful transitions to the next stage of their life.

But here, I’m afraid, the praise and welcoming tone of my letter to you must end for you hope to achieve so much, yet offer so little. Much like your Careers Strategy step-father, your ambition outstretches your reach. Money, it seems, is not worthy of a mention.

To satisfy your requirements now, schools will need to fund

  • a salary at a level to entice a capable Careers Leader
  • funding for L6 IAG training for the Careers Leader (or) a contract with a L6 qualified provider
  • funding for work experience
  • funding for coach trips to events such as the Skills Show, employer visits or visits to other providers such as Universities
  • a budget to cover the costs of events in school
  • admin support for this post

And, because of the need from September 2018 to publish their Careers plan, schools will have to think carefully about the provision they publicly commit to and the funding this will require from future budgets. And this omission is not for the lack of numbers. We know that Gatbsy & PWC did the work in great detail.

gatsby 1

You’ve just chosen to ignore it and hope that, somehow, schools will just deal with these new costs every year.

I’m sure that we’ll meet again soon, you already mention a September 2018 update, in the meantime I hope that you acknowledge, at least, that quality outcomes do not just come from standards papers. Investment begets performance and that the level of quality provision you outline does require, I’m afraid, investment.

What would a new careers law solve?

A central voice in the “school careers is rubbish” choir has always been the FE and training provider sector. Seemingly not a week goes by without their spokespeople regaling tales of struggle to tunnel their way under the gun turrets on the school gates, dodging the sharp incisors of the hounds and avoiding the searchlights just to get their prospectus into the grateful hands of vocationally impoverished Year 11s. Okay, so that is a bit OTT but we’ve all heard the stories of FE Colleges requests to speak to students being ignored, careers advisers having to hide prospectuses out of the watchful eye of Sixth Form staff and open evening posters being hidden under school cake sale flyers on noticeboards. All, the FE sector claim, with the overarching aim of keeping more students in school sixth forms to protect funding streams rather than then letting students choose what is best for them and, by extension, the wider economy.

With our halos shining brightly (ahem), Careers practitioners in schools have been at the sharp end of these local politics and funding bottlenecks.

With this in mind, a new careers law has been mooted that will “ensure” that apprenticeships and vocational routes are given equal and prominent airtime as academic routes to students. The world of FE welcomed the move, Martin Doel said,

We have long been calling for an improvement to the system and welcome the changes outlined. Colleges recognise the critical nature of good careers education and will be very keen to continue to work together with their local schools. This announcement will make that a reality.

while Stephen Exley, the editor of TES Further Ed, was positively ecstatic,

It’s about time to crack open the champagne. At long last, the government is prepared to get tough on the “outdated snobbery” towards further education.

Stewart Segal of the Association of Learning and Employment providers used the historically low percentage of 16-18 year olds starting an apprenticeship as a reason to celebrate the mooted new legislation

Statutory guidance for schools followed but the fact remains that only around 6 per cent of school leavers start an apprenticeship and this proportion hasn’t changed for years. We, therefore, called for that statutory guidance to be strengthened.

only for Nick Boles to rain on that particular parade at his appearance at the sub committee hearing into CEIAG

What mystifies me about the reaction to this announcement is that this legislation already exists, and has done for a number of years, as a statutory duty on schools, that is, policies schools are already required to hold by law.

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This possibly reflects on a failure of all involved in the Careers Duty, a failure of Government strategy, of school implementation and Ofsted monitoring, that vocational providers still feel no discernible impact from it.

What difference would any new legislation take? That this “information” must be delivered to students by outside sources (e.g. FE Colleges)? As this article suggests, the age old standard of a careers fair could be the outcome most schools turn to to meet that requirement. Hardly revolutionary and without the “support and funding” that Russell Hobby calls for in that piece, unlikely to deliver the outcomes desired by the FE community.

 

Putting the shoe on the other foot

Continuing a recent theme on this blog about the growing market for student movement at 14 and the interaction this has with CEIAG, I thought I’d just highlight potential for some localised apple cart unsettling.

September 2014 will see another small cohort of FE Colleges join the trailblazers that opened their doors last year to 14 year olds. This is part of the wider Government policy push for Key Stage 4 students to consider moving to alternative providers who offer a curriculum focus more suited to their goals. Alongside the already vaunted, opened and (in some cases) closed UTC’s and Studio Schools these FE College and Career College establishments will aim to enrol students already part way through their secondary school journey and will no doubt utilise substantive marketing budgets to those ends.

The growth of these provisions will only strengthen the FE sector’s resolve to air their ongoing concerns about the access and the guidance available to the majority of school students before these important transitions. There is now though, potential for the tables to be ever so slightly turned in this regard. The accompanying guidance documents for “Full-time enrolment of 14 to 16 year olds in FE and sixth form colleges” specifically states:

Careers guidance
66. The college is required to secure independent careers guidance for all students up
to and including the age of 18. Independent careers guidance secured under the
requirement should:
a) include information on the full range of education and training opportunities
b) be provided in an impartial manner
c) promote the best interests of the student to whom it is given
67. Colleges should review existing support and take steps to ensure this meets the
needs of their of 14- to 16-year-old students. They should also ensure that the young
person has received sufficiently robust information, advice and guidance prior to
commencing at college to ensure they are following the most appropriate learning
pathway.
68. The DfE has published guidance for institutions on securing independent careers
guidance. The DfE has also published statutory guidance and departmental advice for
schools on careers guidance and inspiration which can be used by colleges to review
support for of 14- to 16-year-old students.

Of course, we shouldn’t all expect school Sixth Forms near to the Colleges in Middlesbrough, Leeds or elsewhere mentioned in the FE Week article above to suddenly start banging on FE College doors to demand access and offer IAG to the young people soon to be studying within them but at least it shows that, on paper, the level playing ground for collaboration to grow has been laid.

 

I don’t know how to put this but I’m kind of a big deal: CEIAG remix

The fact that anyone reads, comments or shares my posts on this Careers blog continually amazes and delights me. There is the whole internet out there to click your life away on and, as an author of an opinion based blog focused on a narrow strand of education policy, I’m grateful that, for what ever reasons, people choose to while away some time on this particular corner of it.

Of course, all bloggers must feel pride or some small sense of accomplishment when people they admire or respect in their field takes note, praises or even quotes your output.

Then, there’s the faintly ridiculous sensation you get when you realise that the Department for Education has quoted you.

That’s right: in paragraph 18 of a recently released document (footnote bottom of page 6), written by the DfE for the Education Select Committee to update them following their inquiry into Careers Guidance in schools, this short post gets a mention.

They’ve quoted me there to show approval for the revised Statutory Guidance which fits into the wider mission of the update document to convince the Select Committee that the Department’s policies are bearing fruit and steering us all towards an improved CEIAG landscape.

Firstly, it’s a quote I stand by. The revised Guidance document was a vast improvement over the original and goes into great (sometimes even overly repetitive) detail of what a school should be doing in regard to CEIAG. There was a period after the release of the original duty document when a common complaint from Headteachers was that they “didn’t know what to do” to provide quality careers provision. The revised document ended that get out clause as a reason for a school’s lack of provision but, let’s be clear, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other reasons that a school may well be struggling with providing Careers services for their young people.

So, in a desperate scramble to retain some sense of credibility now that I’ve been quoted by “the man,” here are a few things to clear up:

  1. At the time of the inquiry, I wrote a less than favourable post about the Secretary of State’s appearance in front of the Committee to give evidence. Surprise! None of that gets a mention.
  2. I really do appreciate the use of the term “careers website” guys but, come on, The Guardian Careers site, Careersbox, the National Careers Service, these are “careers websites.” This place is just the semi coherent ramblings of a lanky lad from Luton who is putting off other things he should be doing instead.
  3. In other areas of policy the DfE is greatly increasing the amount of content and so teaching time needed for subjects such as Maths and English. They won’t (and probably shouldn’t) apologise for this but it will have consequences. For any Career leads in schools hanging onto Form or dedicated PHSE teaching time to deliver Careers sessions, this is bad news.
  4. The money issue is bubbling under and will continue to grow into a massive issue for schools. Quality careers provision costs money, be that wages for a post, paying for resources or just coach trips to an event, it needs schools to dedicate a budget to it and, as the Gatsby Foundation showed, if schools are not doing that at when it could only cost a small percentage of current funding levels…the squeeze on Careers will only get tighter as the overall pot shrinks. Schools need funding for this work and any hint of a request or suggestion that would of required cash support has been stonewalled by this Department.

I presume the update has been submitted as summer reading for the Education Committee members ahead of a final evidence session on their inquiry with the Secretary of State in the Autumn (which, considering his Department just ignored every suggestion or criticism in their report, should be fun). Also ahead of this they have released a call for written evidence to be submitted to them before the 19th September 2014. I couldn’t think of any better submissions for them to receive than evidence from practitioners in the field striving to show the importance and value of CEIAG everyday.

 

 

The hidden pill for schools to swallow in the CEIAG guidance

The updated Careers Guidance has been out for a few weeks now which is long enough for it to be read, digested and (in some cases) spat back out by those with an interest in these things. The initial media coverage concentrated on the clear desire in the document(s) for schools to be much more proactive in their approaches and collaborations with the business community to provide the much vaunted and discussed “inspiration” that will illuminate the clear routes ahead of young people on their paths to success. Or something.

What gained less attention was the inclusion of instructions for schools which, arguably, could require a greater amount of change from them.

The original guidance, published in March 2013, contained the Duty including the highlighted sentence below:

while the expanded and updated Guidance in 2014 contains this whole, much more detailed, section:

The difference between the two excerpts could not be clearer in the detail covered or the expectation placed on schools. Or to be more precise, the expectation placed on Careers leads in schools. We now can’t hide away from the fact that we are the forefront of the growth of the marketplace for students at 14 and our requirements to spread IAG may cause disquiet and unease among colleagues and ripples through our local educational landscape. I would imagine, in most schools,  it’s something that needs airing with all of our Senior Leadership teams explicitly and soon.

The issues Studio schools and UTCs have previously encountered with enrolling students have already been noticed by both the national press and the Ministerial team writing the checks so in response, some of these individual schools have been pushing their marketing boat out with focused, local campaigns whilst being supported by a national presence with substantial PR nous and which herald the positive employability skills gained by their alumni. In some areas, this marketing push hasn’t gone smoothly and, I must admit, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more coverage of localised political shenanigans resulting from these transitions (if I’ve missed any, please let me know in the comments). If I was the Head of a newly or soon to be opened Studio School or UTC I would be sending that second image above to the Heads of all my local secondary schools with an offer to come in and run an assembly. Of course, not all of those offers would result in collaborative work but schools who refuse or ignore those requests are on much more shaky ground should Ofsted arrive and ask the questions they should be asking.

There will be Careers Leads in schools who may be reading this and feel content in the knowledge that a UTC or Studio School is not due to open near their patch. They would be wallowing in the relief that I feel when speaking to Colleagues who work in schools with Sixth Form provisions about the long running and well-known battles had about introducing other routes to students at the 16 transition point. Well, I’d hesitate to feel totally at ease yet because, included in that second image, is the line “opportunities for 14-year-old enrollment at local Colleges” and with the funding squeeze being felt by Post 16 providers it’s not difficult to imagine many more of them looking into establishing provision at 14 to both shore up funding and subsequent enrolment at Level 3. This is an issue coming all our ways.