Why careers advice must change – and how to get started – Schools Week

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Following his appearance at the education select committee’s inquiry into careers guidance, Philip Le Feuvre explains what’s needed to make the system fit for purpose
Following his appearance at the education select committee’s inquiry into careers guidance, Philip Le Feuvre explains what’s needed to make the system fit for purpose
Phillip Le Feuvre
Chief strategy officer, NCFE
5 Dec 2022, 5:00
It’s important to start with a caveat: I don’t believe that any country has cracked careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG), at least not completely.
CEIAG can be costly to deliver and lacks a comprehensive evidence base regarding which interventions are effective. Cause and effect can be hard to disaggregate from the multitude of factors that influence outcomes, and often measuring those same outcomes takes time.
However, we’ve under-invested in CEIAG for a sustained period and we lack a coordinated strategy.
As a result, careers advice in schools is inconsistent, lacks independence and doesn’t start early enough. Only 7 to 12 per cent of schools are delivering against all the Gatsby Benchmarks. Meanwhile, performance measures like progress 8 and Ebacc mean the school curriculum imparts bias towards academic subjects, and this is reinforced in schools with sixth forms, who are effectively incentivised to encourage learners to study A levels as they receive funding for those who continue at the school post-16.
Overall, only 40 per cent of schools are complying in full with the Baker Clause. This means the majority are not allowing colleges and training providers access to students to discuss non-academic routes or impartially promoting the full range of technical education qualifications and apprenticeships.
Learners can’t make informed decisions if they aren’t aware of all the options available to them. Leaving schools to manage information and guidance with little accountability and limited resources means what’s being delivered is not truly independent. But while we should be providing all teachers with better basic training around CEIAG, it’s not right that we expect them to take on additional responsibility without better support and tools.
We also need to consider the other influencers in learners’ lives. I saw this first-hand when I was a primary school teacher in Hackney. When I asked my year 4 class what jobs they were interested in, most of the girls wanted to be beauticians and most of the boys, footballers. There’s nothing wrong with these careers, but it struck me that the awareness of what jobs were out there was so shaped by family environment and media.
Having said all of that, some shorter-term improvements are possible. The first is for schools to advocate for a careers leader role if they don’t have one, and to ensure this role is supported. Good resources are available to help every young person find the right next step.
Schools also need to make stronger and more sustainable relationships with employers. It’s important they’re co-ordinating regular employer visits in a planned sequence, and with full alignment with the curriculum where possible, especially for local labour markets.
Finally, schools should engage with the Skills Builder Partnership’s essential skills framework and resources – designed to enhance students’ abilities and, really importantly, equip young people with the skills they need in a career.
In the longer term, these six recommendations would enhance CEIAG more fundamentally, and focus on supporting schools to deliver it in a way that benefits everyone.
First, we need a national strategy for CEIAG. We’ve gone too long without one.
Next, that strategy must include centralising CEIAG under a single government body reporting to DfE, and a plan to professionalise the service, making it independent, more cohesive, and sustainable.
In terms of delivery, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Existing infrastructure and good practice can be leveraged, including examples of best practice and resources to support careers advisers.
And the aim of the strategy must be to make work experience accessible for all. Flexible placements are essential to combating regional and socio-economic disparities.
Only with such a strategy can we hope to truly embed CEIAG through the curriculum, see teachers visiting industries, schools make links with employers and the creation of a national network of careers ambassadors.
I hope some of my former students do go on to become beauticians or footballers. But getting this is vital for all those who won’t before we even consider the benefits for society and the economy.
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National strategies do not always work locally.
Professional teachers with subject degrees are already in place and when CEG is mandatory as part of Course and work schemes using Gatsby Criteria that, together with training for Careers Leads and time to set up Department and resources again will help form a cohesive programme. But some operate only on line for information, often without regular adequate learner access and support to explain the dense read, new terms and vocabulary and time to liaise with Advisers, admin staff and School/industry Links, Entrepreneur and Work Experience Co-ordinators is required.
As far as recording and reporting is concerned, various Asdan modules (to provide evaluation and success) and Which Way Now booklets, enable a structured programme for teachers as tutors (who need training, as do those supporting Level 3 progression routes for Degree Apprenticeships and UCAS Statements) to support learners.
When CIAG is not timetabled as lessons, those at the end of the year miss several sessions so an on line aspect needs setting up by Careers Lead or IT Department and monitored to check every learner has received an opportunity to discuss future options and receive/draw up a plan or to do list that covers research, Web sites and topics to cover like funding, living away from home to work or study – Bring Back the Record of Achievement to support learner organisation perhaps – the on line version is not always easy for the disadvantaged, in care or estranged…
It is the lack of any alternative qualifications at 14+ apart from academia, that takes learners longer, and makes them more stressed by being urged to make important decisions based on no earlier input at 16….
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