university technical colleges

Your Baker Clause school CEIAG policy guide

Exams are looming and the summer break is peaking over the horizon so nobody working in schools needs anything extra to do but I’m going to make a suggestion of something that CEIAG leads should consider getting sorted if not before the end of term, then very quickly in the new academic year. That job is writing, consulting with Senior Leadership on and then publishing on the school website the school policy on other educational and vocational providers speaking and presenting to your cohort of students.

The Technical and Further Education Bill received Royal Assent and became law on 27th April 2017. The core purposes of the Bill are to lay out the regulation and authority of the new Institute for Apprenticeships and create a new insolvency process for Further Education Colleges that navigate themselves into tricky financial waters. It is though one of the Amendments to the Bill, requested by Lord Baker (joint founder of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust which facilitates the opening of new UTCs) that requires attention from CEIAG practitioners in schools.

(CEIAG colleagues in FE Colleges will be more concerned by another Amendment which now requires that Ofsted specifically comment on Careers guidance when publishing their reports on FE providers. I don’t know why this required statute and could not be achieved through Ofsted’s own guidance to inspectors similar the requirement to comment on Careers provision in secondary schools).

Away from the main Bill the Baker Clause can be seen here at paragraph 2. It requires that schools

  1. must ensure that there is an opportunity for a range of education and training providers to access registered pupils during the relevant phase (ages 13-18) of their education for the purpose of informing them about approved technical education qualifications and apprenticeships
  2. must prepare a policy statement setting out the circumstances in which education and training providers will be given access to registered pupils for the purpose of informing them about approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships
  3. must ensure the policy statement includes procedural requirements in relation to requests for access, grounds for granting and refusing requests for access and details of premises or facilities provided to those granted access
  4. must revise the policy “from time to time”
  5. must publish the policy statement

And it this job that needs completing as soon as possible.

All good CEIAG schemes in schools will include plenty of input from vocational and apprenticeship providers and, ever since starting this blog, I have been wary of the Vocational training sectors rote complaint that “students don’t know we exist” as an over simplification of the complicated reasons young people follow routes with clearer directions of travel and fail to secure apprenticeships, despite registering and applying for them in huge numbers (compared to vacancies), yet a cliché is a cliche for a reason. Everyone working in Careers in schools has heard eyebrow raising tales of Sixth Form managers escorting FE College visitors out of the school reception, prospectuses going missing, Apprenticeship providers being put in a classroom to talk to only a “select” group of students and so on. As Lord Baker himself has noted, the introduction of providers such as UTC’s who admit students at 14 into a system unused to this competition for funded students complicated local issues so providing a clearer set of guidelines while still allowing local flexibility would seem a solution looking from the top down. The downside is that it can result in unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles.

Tackling the issue from the ground up, practitioners and colleagues will already know that solving these issues best comes through the relationships built from local collaboration and transparency, strong local progression networks and the buy in to a shared vision for positive student outcomes in a regional area.

Where this isn’t the case though, some Vocational and Apprenticeship providers (and Vocational professional bodies will be doing their utmost to inform their members) will be approaching schools in the new academic year expecting a policy document to be in place. Yet any school leaders will also be wary that these requests come at unsuitable times for learning or assessment preparation, they might clash with a multitude of other events such as school photos, leavers assemblies, trips, other booked visitors and so on. This provision needs to part of a planned scheme of CEIAG work for year groups and cohorts so having a clear policy published early will help deal with multiples of requests and also deal with any members of school staff still sticking to outdated ways of working when responding to other local providers who enrol at 14 or 16.

Whether as a separate document or part of your main CEIAG policy I would suggest something along these lines:

As part of X school’s commitment to informing our pupils of the full range of learning and training routes on offer to them, X school is happy to consider requests from training providers, Vocational education and apprenticeship providers to speak to students and will also approach these partners ourselves when planning organising key Careers events throughout the school year.

In the first instance, providers wishing to speak with students should consult our calendar of Careers events published on the school website as we would welcome their input at our main Careers events throughout the school year:

Key Stage 3 Futures drop down day – Autumn term

Key Stage 3 Options Evening – March

Key Stage 4 Careers Fair – October

Life Beyond the Sixth Form – May

These events provide ample opportunities to speak to students and parents both individually and in groups to offer information on vocational, technical and apprenticeship routes. These are usually held in the school hall and timings, facilities and parking and registration details are emailed to exhibitors in good time before the event. Enquires about these events can made to school X’s CEIAG lead at the email address below.

We also have a number of whole year group assembly slots which offer providers a short opportunity to quickly spread the word about their offer. These are 20 minutes slots to a whole year group of around 200 students in our main assembly hall which has a whiteboard projector and speakers for sound. These are usually on offer through the early part of the Autumn and Spring terms as, at other times, our halls are used for exams and so assemblies do not take place. If you are a provider and would like to enquire on the availability of assembly slots please email our CEIAG lead on the details below to request a CEIAG visitor booking form and complete the assembly request section.

If a provider is unable to attend these events or feels that their presentation needs require different circumstances or that they are hosting an event they wish to promote, in the first instance they should contact CEIAG lead at X school ????? via email ?????@xschool.co.uk and complete a CEIAG visitor booking form.

The CEIAG visitor booking form asks for the role of the training, vocational or apprenticeship provider you represent, the aim of the presentation, if the request is for an assembly slot, the number of students the presentation or session is designed for, the length of the talk or presentation, the target year group for the session or presentation, what display or other facilities the session would require, how many provider staff (and names of staff) that will be visiting and what support from school staff you would require on the day. If the email is notification of an event at an off site venue, please include timings of the day, a list of other invited schools and providers, any accessible funding streams for transport costs and a visit risk assessment of the venue.

All requests should be emailed at least 6 weeks (a school half term) in advance an expected date for the planned session. All requests will be given due consideration be X school’s CEIAG lead and Senior Leadership link and requests will be refused if:

  • they impinge on students preparation for public or internal exams
  • they clash with other school events such as visits, other speakers, well-being days, school photographs, sports days, public or internal exams, parents communication events etc
  • the school is unable to provide staff to support the presentation or talk due to previous commitments
  • rooming for the talk or event is unable to be found due to timetabling clashes

Responses to requests will come from the school CEIAG lead. For requests that are approved, School X will provide clear instructions before the event on visitor parking, visitor registration, a contact member of staff and their contact details, the teaching room or school hall to be used at the session and the presentation facilities this space offers.

As part of School X’s wider CEIAG policy, the range of Careers provision for students is reported every academic year to the school governing body and Headteacher.

If you have questions regarding this or School X’s wider CEIAG policy document please do not hesitate to contact our CEIAG lead at ?????@xschool.co.uk

That may seem an overly officious document which would probably elicit a weary sigh from a colleague at a vocational provider wishing to visit schools but that includes all of the information the new Clause requires from schools. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, comments and suggestions in the comments below.

For both schools and Vocational training providers, navigating these policies may provide clarity on how to gain access to each school in their area but it may also be a spur to improve on the local relationships and networks mentioned above that are he real solution to this issue.

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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.

Schools can & need to fight back against the UTC & Studio Schools employability PR blitz

In his speech to the annual Studio Schools Trust Conference this week, Lord Nash spoke of the need for this new type of school to be more proactive and “dynamic” in both their engagement with established local schools and in their marketing to local parents. His message came against a backdrop of news that the other new career route focused schools, University Technical Colleges, were operating so under capacity that the Dfe was considering halting the funding of new ones.

The Studio Schools rationale is to “pioneer a bold new approach to learning which includes teaching through enterprise projects and real work” because, as the CBI and other spokespeople for the world of industry consistently remind us, the UK education curriculum is perceived to be failing in one of its main functions to prepare work ready employees of tomorrow. Promoted by Lord Baker and The Duke of York respectively, UTCs and Studio Schools are reactions to this criticism and hope to fill a niche by bridging the gap between employment and education alongside the Dfe’s overarching program of school reform supposedly implemented with the skill needs of employers in mind.

In the speech Lord Nash referred to the issues Studio Schools have faced with recruiting students at both 14 and 16 and the steps they can take to improve both numbers and the range of prior ability of learners. This is a tacit admission that, in some Authorities, the Studio School brand has been misunderstood for a kind of new style Pupil Referral Unit type offer. Nash’s suggestions include:

  • a proactive approach towards the schools in their area. Despite what I’ve just said about the potential difficulties in recruiting students from schools at 14, those studio schools that have taken the initiative to build these relationships have done noticeably better

  • a dynamic direct marketing strategy to parents and pupils in the media and online

It is that “dynamic” and “direct” marketing drive that will interest CEIAG professionals as, without doubt, each of the schools will make their use of work experience, employer contacts, engagement and direct career pathways a major cornerstone of their advertising and appeal. As Nash says,

it emerged that the more aspirational the offer, the greater the appeal to prospective parents and pupils, with specialisms like the prestigious STEM subjects going down well. Strong employer engagement was also found to be a strong asset, but only if the overall offer was aspirational enough.

Reinforced by politicians across the political divide

and in eulogizing articles in the national press, the message is clear – These schools prepare young people for the world of work better than ‘regular’ schools.

‘Regular’ schools can and need to fight back against this PR strategy and, by Careers Leaders preaching the necessity of that to their Senior Leadership, this in turn could aid improvement in the consistency of Careers provision across the country. Local newspapers seem willing to give schools a platform to highlight their great Careers work so this is a tactic Careers leads in schools should be utilising to their full advantage to advance their cause. I passionately believe that ‘regular’ schools can incorporate the Studio School strategies mentioned above of employer engagement, IAG, enterprise and experience of the world of work into their structure and provision resulting in a wider and more comprehensive overview of the labour market for students. It’s worth saying that I should be taking my own advice here and local coverage of our own work is something I’ll be looking to gain in coming months and report back with any progress.