statutory guidance

The CEC is heading into tricky strategic waters

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Since it’s inception I would hope that this blog has been viewed as being demanding but fair to the Careers and Enterprise company. While some of their early work seemed more suited to the corporate sphere rather than the transparent world of the public sector they have since been given an wider remit by the Government, weathered (what in my view) has been some grandstanding but empty criticism from Robert Halfon and expanded their offer to schools and colleges through Careers Hubs, online tools and other funding streams. With this context, my position is that the sector should welcome that the DfE is funding careers work and tasking the CEC with looking at a fuller variety of careers provision rather than just the original remit of facilitating employer encounters. The DfE Guidance for Schools and Colleges has done much to focus attention and add impetus and importance to the CEC in the minds of School and College Senior Leaders. This work should be continued and built upon further. My fear for the future though is that the CEC is having to stray into tricky political waters.

Targets

As an indicator of their increased transparency, the CEC now publishes it’s annual grant funding letter. This sets out the clear targets and expectations of the DfE for the CEC and indicates the funding allocated to each strand of work

The DfE has determined those targets to have value and some of the data points around training, allocation of funds and sharing of best practice seem sensible for system improvement but overall these outcomes are very technical and input based. Key performance indicators such as “55% of schools and colleges in the Wave 1 Careers Hubs fully achieving Gatsby Benchmark 6” or “70,000 young people reached in Wave 1 Opportunity Areas by August 2019” are admirable in their specificity and adherence to the Gatsby research but also bring a danger for the CEC as they are ultimately lacking in both political and public impact.

Since it’s inception the CEC has received over £95 million (with £24.3 million of that for 2019/20). The issue here is not in terms of figures (careers work needs funding) but when Ministers have to justify previous and future expenditure. The DfE will need to present outcomes for this flagship policy to both political audiences (at Education Select Committees and in Parliament) and to the pubic through achievements that, they hope, will resonate with voters at election times.

We have already seen the CEC struggle to articulate their progress and achievements at two Eduction Select Committee sessions where the questions focused on the need to prove outcomes for students while Claudia Harris and Christine Hodgson’s answers relied on data showing the input provision that had been enacted. In Parliament and in previous speeches by Ministers, there has been confusion over the aims of the CEC. This mismatch between expectation of delivery and what is achieved is what will prove to be tricky for the CEC to manage.

The need for a compelling message

In 2016 I attended a session at an Education and Employers research conference where two ex-DfE civil servants spoke about the need to distill research and outcomes down to the simplest, most concise summary possible so that Ministers can digest and cascade it. They did not quite advocate Trumpian levels of “put in as many pictures as possible” but their reasons as to why the “4 or more employer engagements” research broke through so successfully are worth the attention of the CEC when considering promoting their work to MPs and the public.

The narrative battle

However, the CEC is tasked with showing progress against those very technical key performance indicators in their grant funding letter. Previously they achieved this through annual State of the Nation reports but now have released data which has gone further by showing progress against the Gatsby Benchmarks broken down to Local Enterprise Partnership level. This shows a

contrasting picture across the country, with the top performing areas made up of largely coastal and economically disadvantaged communities, while the bottom is made up almost exclusively of affluent counties.

This (with the caveat of noting that Compass is self reported data) is a positive picture indicating a large swell of change in CEIAG provision levels for young people and work. Unfortunately this does not translate to the mantra of keeping your outcomes simple and easily understood. Compare that positive picture based on Gatsby Benchmarks and the accompanying TES article from Anne Milton with other policy and research data released in the very same week as the CEC LEP level data. First came the Impetus Youth Jobs Report which utilised the LEO dataset

In March 2017 (the latest date we can analyse using the data we have access to) 26% of disadvantaged young people were NEET, compared to 13% of their better-off peers. This is the equivalent of around 78,000 additional disadvantaged NEETs aged 18-24. Looking at the same data from the opposite end of the lens, 26% of NEETs were from disadvantaged backgrounds, despite being only 16% of the population

and that

A disadvantaged young person is about 50% more likely to be NEET in the North East compared to London

This was soon followed by the 2018-19 State of the Nation report from the Social Mobility Commission. The key findings are stark and easily summarised:

  • The better off are nearly 80% more likely to end up in professional jobs than those from a working-class background.
  • Even when people from disadvantaged backgrounds land a professional job, they earn 17% less than their privileged colleagues.
  • social mobility has remained virtually stagnant since 2014. Four years ago, 59% of those from professional backgrounds were in professional jobs, rising to 60% last year
  • in 2014 only 32% of those from working class backgrounds got professional jobs, rising marginally to 34% last year
  • those from working class backgrounds earn 24% less a year than those from professional backgrounds, even if they get a professional job they earn 17% less than more privileged peers
  • by age 6 there is a 14% gap in phonics attainment between children entitled to free school meals and those more advantaged
  • by age 7 the gap has widened to 18% in reading, 20% in writing and 18% in mathematics
  • only 16% of pupils on free school meals attain at least 2 A levels by age 19, compared to 39% of all other pupils
  • twice the number of disadvantaged 16 to 18 year olds are at further education colleges compared to sixth-forms, and this segregation within the education system has risen by 1.2% since 2013
  • student funding for 16 to 19 year olds has fallen 12% since 2011 to 2012, and is now 8% lower than for secondary schools (11 to 15 year olds), leading to cuts to the curriculum and student support services that harm disadvantaged students
  • graduates who were on free school meals earn 11.5% less than others 5 years after graduating

The accompanying coverage resonated through articles across the media (some examples here and here) and gave enough political leverage for it to be raised at PMQs.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that these two reports and the CEC publication are talking about the very same disadvantaged communities yet through very different lenses. Of course, the CEC is reviewing current trends in provision which may not have an impact on outcomes for pupils for many years while adhering to reporting against it’s key performance indicators. Translating those KPIs when explaining the positive outcomes of their work to audiences without a CEIAG specialism is a huge hurdle for the CEC as they have to:

  1. explain what the Benchmarks are
  2. explain why they are good to achieve
  3. show that they are helping schools and colleges achieve them
  4. then outline the impact on positive outcomes for students in those disadvantaged communities.

I fear this means that achieving positive traction with politicians and the public will be extremely difficult.

Politically tricky waters

The political future of the country is currently in a highly unpredictable place but the CEC must be conscious of the need to persuade future Governments (of any colour ribbon) of their value. Labour’s Education Policy of a National Education Service is outlined in broad strokes without clarity on the need or role of a CEC type organisation. But whichever party is in power to make decisions on funding, they will not make those decisions merely based on research and evidence but research, evidence and outcomes that has been successfully communicated. If the CEC continues to constrain themselves to only communicating the value of the work in line with their key performance indicators then they will soon find themselves outmaneuvered by those able to use other statistics and research to paint a much more negative picture of the current state of CEIAG provision in disadvantaged communities to undermine any positive progress made.

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The 2017 student destinations of the original Gatsby pilot group

With the recent release by the DfE of the 2016/17 Destinations Data, I thought it would be a useful exercise to look at the Data of those institutions that were involved in the original Gatsby Benchmarks pilot to see how that improvement in CEIAG provision is effecting student outcomes.

All of the 2017 Destination Data used for this post is sourced from the DfE KS5 & KS4 tables (revised editions) here. Any 2015 Destination Data is sourced from the DfE KS5 & KS4 tables for that cohort which can be found here.

In the original North East pilot which started in September 2015, 16 providers (including 3 Further Education providers) used the Gatsby Benchmarks to assess and plan their own provision. With the support of a LEP appointed area lead and £9,000 central funding for each institution they made significant progress to improving their CEIAG offer against the Benchmarks.

In 2015, 50% of the schools and colleges in the pilot achieved no benchmarks, but after two years of hard work over 85% now reach between six and eight benchmarks.

I’ve taken the Destinations Data for those institutions from the DfE tables above and put them in their own Excel table (with the national regional North East figures) which you can download here > gatsby providers destinations

You can also compare that Data against the trends in nationwide Destinations Data in table 1 in the accompanying report to the 2017 release.

national destinations data

Destinations Data

Each year Destinations Data is a snapshot of a cohort of leavers so it is always wise to a) not draw too definitive a set of conclusions and b) place in context of region and historical Destinations Data if possible. In my table above I have also included the regional figures from 2015 and 2017.

There will also be your own personal approach to using Destination Data as a tool. I think that (with the above caveats) it is useful for judging the impact of CEIAG work. If a school is enabling leavers to progress into sustained destinations that cover the variety of routes and perhaps even buck regional or national trends, then I am much more convinced by the efficacy of a school or college’s CEIAG provision.

So we can see that for 2017 KS4 leavers, the Gatsby schools were under-performing for overall sustained destinations against both 2017 regional and national averages. In fact, the achieved average of the schools of 89% in a positive sustained destination has been left behind nationally since the 2012/13 leavers cohort (table 1). The percentage of KS4 leavers (5.8%) securing an Apprenticeship is a touch above the national average but only in line with the regional average and below the 2015 regional average of 8%. Perhaps the affects of the Apprenticeship Levy and the lag that has incurred on young people securing apprenticeships is shown here. Elsewhere the destination not sustained average of 9.5% is higher than both the regional and nation averages (excluding alternate provision providers) and the 2015 regional figure. The percentage of learners moving onto Further Education or Sixth Form providers is varied and can depend heavily on locally available institutions and their offer that students can travel to so not much value can be drawn from those data points.

At KS5 the three institutions involved offer a more mixed story. (It is worth noting at the outset the clear size differences between the institutions involved, Bishop Auckland College had only 60 KS5 leavers in the data while Sunderland College included 1,082) A percentage of 79% for the Gatsby group transitioning into any positive sustained destination is below both regional and national averages while 9% of learners moving into apprenticeships is above both regional and national comparison rates. The greatest distinction can be found in the Destination not sustained results as an average of 16% of students not achieving a sustained destination is well above regional and national averages.

Conclusions

With the roll-out of both the Gatsby Benchmarks as part of the Careers Strategy and DfE school and College guidance and the Hub structure across much of the country I would expect that most officials within the DfE would be wanting to see the growth shoots of a more sustained and significant impact on positive student destinations in the original pilot area. These may yet come as the 2017 Destinations Data is only looking at the second cohort of school leavers to exit KS4 or KS5 since the start of the pilot area’s Gatsby journey. But the desire for improvement in CEIAG provision must come with goals. Benchmarks are either a method of standarising provision types that has impact on outcomes or they’re not. All CEIAG practitioners (and, I would guess) researchers are aware of the difficult nature of capturing the value of CEIAG work, so much happens in a young person’s life that can have an impact on the journey they take, but if we all do really believe that CEIAG can have a positive impact on those young people; that comes with the responsibility of accepting some metrics will be valued by policy makers. Currently, one of those metrics isn’t moving.

Our Further Education Careers Programme statement (v2)

With the move to a new College, one of my first jobs has been to update our public facing Careers pages on the College website. According to the DfE FE Careers Guidance this should include a Careers Programme Statement that I have previously blogged about here.

This is content that doesn’t sit naturally alongside main purpose of a Further Education website as so much of this public facing tool is solely dedicated to marketing the College. Usually written and designed by a dedicated marketing team, the website is an important part of the recruitment drive that all FE Colleges must consistently undertake to prosper.

While the majority of the rest of the site is dedicated to informing but also enticing potential learners to use the College, the remit of the Careers Programme Statement has to be written, as dictated by the Guidance,

in a way that enables learners, parents, college staff and employers to access and understand it.

So it has slightly different audiences to reach but ultimately all with the same wider strategic goals of a modern FE College in mind. To inform your local community of the work the College does with its students and to invite collaboration and integration with that community including the local labour market.

I am seeing plenty of schools start to upload similar Statements on their websites but examples from FE Colleges are a little more sparse currently. If you know of any, please drop a link in the comments below.

 

Our Further Education Careers Programme Statement

Our College Group’s Careers Programme Statement has now gone up on the websites across the Group.

You can find it on our two general Further Education College sites:

https://www.tresham.ac.uk/student-support/careers-advice/

https://www.bedford.ac.uk/student-support/careers-advice

Our Sixth Form College site

https://www.bedfordsixthform.ac.uk/student-life/careers-advice

and our dedicated Student Services site

http://www.yourspaceonline.net/jobs-and-careers

Included as a requirement for September 2018 in the Careers Guidance for Further Education & Sixth Form Colleges published in February, this is a fairly straightforward task to fulfill but adds another level of public accountability to offering CEIAG in post 16 providers and would be considered as a fundamental aspect of meeting Gatsby benchmark 1: A Stable Careers Programme.

fe careers guidance

Although, in this age of College Groups and Post 16 mergers, writing a document that is both accessible for the public yet also covers enough detail of all of the aspects of the service is tricky. Our first attempt is below and I’d welcome any feedback or examples from other Post 16 providers ready for when we review it next year.

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.

 

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.