12 May Dear Nicky Morgan…
I had the pleasure of attending ‘Joining the dots’ – the first Careers and Enterprise Company conference on the 11th of May.
I thought the event was well attended and rightfully attracted some high profile speakers such as yourself, along with many familiar faces from the world of careers guidance.
Whilst the event was well meaning, well organised and all the right words were spoken, I did however still come away feeling somewhat flat and that nothing much had changed or was indeed going to.
Let me explain.
Without the necessary accountability in schools for high quality careers advice, it will continue to be inconsistent and under funded. I believe you had the opportunity during your speech to use the magic name that would have every headteacher on their toes and reviewing the CEIAG provision that night. Ofsted!
I was hoping to hear words such as “We will bring parity to aspiration, so it sits shoulder to shoulder with attainment and attendance when it comes to inspecting schools. And “No longer will a school just feel they are doing justice to careers guidance by ‘ticking boxes’.”
Or even perhaps “From September all new Ofsted inspections will be weighted heavily towards evidencing the delivery and impact of the 8 Gatsby Benchmarks. Your Ofsted rating will now reflect how you are preparing young people for work and even more so how you are preparing them for today’s high tech economy”.
But alas no, you seemed to steer away from any new legislation with the hope of schools doing the right thing. But sadly in my experience this is often not the case. Whilst most headteachers are as passionate about employability as Nick Bowen at Horizon Academy (whose views clearly resonated with the audience on Wednesday), they know that the security of their jobs are not dependent on the quality of their careers guidance.
As a former lead sponsor of an academy and school governor (Maltby Academy) I understand the pressures and I empathise with senior leaders. They are naturally going to put resource and focus into those areas where the hard measures and accountability are. Attainment, levels progress, attendance, behaviours, teaching and learning and leadership. Unfortunately, careers guidance is the poor relation to the measures previously stated. Unless you give sharper teeth to Ofsted when it comes to careers information advice and guidance, I’m afraid nothing much will change.
One of the key priorities of the Careers & Enterprise Company is to try and drive engagement between businesses and schools, which is essential in my view. Most successful business people adhere to the maxim of “what gets measured gets done” so I implore you to seek the advice of business people in your own role. I am sure that most will agree that without any meaningful measures (and consequences) your good intentions will come to nothing. The fact that less than 10% of schools have signed up to a free service so far suggests that the initiative is failing to grab the attention of schools – for whom careers guidance isn’t high enough up their priority list.
At U-Explore we work with over 1,000 schools, who are all battling with the lack of resource available for careers guidance, both in terms of finance and time. We have recently commissioned a white paper by Tristram Hooley who states that “schools are desperate for resources, help and ideas” and that the current approach runs the risk of an ad hoc approach to careers guidance “poorly integrated with the curriculum and difficult for students to learn from”. He also states “at present England’s career guidance system is underpowered to deliver many of [the government’s] policy goals”.
As a result of our experience in schools we have had to adapt how we work with schools, by providing www.startprofile.com free to every young person and ensuring that consistency, tracking and reporting are at the heart of our solution – because we believe it matters.
I hope this post finds it’s way to you and what I, and many others, believe resonates with you enough to make the necessary changes, as surely there can be no greater priority than ensuring every young person has a right to high quality careers guidance and is not left wanting due to other school priorities.
I hope your trip to Japan went well.