This post also appears on Tristram Hooley’s blog ‘Adventures in Career Development‘, published January 26, 2021.
There has never been a more challenging time for students in our schools. We are in the middle of our third national lockdown and, let’s face it… people are finding things exceptionally difficult. My overtly positive piece (published May 2020), ‘Careers Leadership after COVID-19’, now seems overtly optimistic. However, as we are still very much in the middle of the pandemic I do feel that plenty of opportunities remain. One opportunity that we can’t let pass us by is taking the time to examine the current state of Careers education in schools.
If we set aside the pandemic, arguably careers education has never been in a better shape. Amongst other things, we have seen investment from the government in staff training and increased prominence in school inspections. Every school and college should have a nominated person who must lead provision across their organisation. As such, our family has grown exponentially in recent years. If this all seems too good to be true, then it might just well be. The devil, they say, is in the detail. If you speak to those leading and delivering Careers education you get the distinct impression that there are problems, but where do they lie?
In order to challenge this rosy outlook, we need to look at four key areas: Senior Leadership support and engagement, application of the Gatsby Benchmarks, the Careers and Enterprise Company, and COVID-19.
Senior Leadership support and engagement
Since the inclusion of Careers provision in the Common Inspection Framework, there has never been a greater incentive for SLT to throw their wholehearted support behind Careers education. Questions should be asked on the true level of support and engagement from SLT. For instance, do Careers Leaders have protected time on their timetables? If so, how much time is protected and how much do CLs ‘actually’ spend on their Careers responsibilities? It should also be asked if the work undertaken is seen as valuable?
It’s been 6 years since the release of the ‘Good Career Guidance’ report from the Gatsby Foundation. There can be no question regarding its transformative effect on Careers education. All schools and colleges are required to work towards reaching all eight of the appropriately named ‘Gatsby Benchmarks’. With their prominence comes some important questions: Is it now time to place them under review? Is there consistent self-assessment of the benchmarks across all schools? Should they be subject to standardisation and moderation? Without question, they have been transformative, but has this led to positive impact?
The Careers and Enterprise Company
Founded in 2015, the CEC have worked tirelessly to support schools and colleges with the required improvements needed in Careers education. They have a wide remit to support schools across multiple channels, be they digital or physical. With a new incoming CEO in Oli de Botton, the time might be right to ask some questions of the support that is offered. Questions such as: What is the take up of funded Careers Leader training? How do schools use and judge the impact of Enterprise Advisors? How have schools made use of the COVID-19 support resources offered?
There should be no doubt about why questions need to be asked around this subject. With so much lost academic learning for young people, has the delivery of Careers education been affected in some capacity? If so, which benchmarks have been affected? Has provision been marginalised? The big one is, should government do more to provide more direct support to you and young people?
The TF Careers Network launched their ‘Careers Leadership at the Chalkface’ project just before the Christmas break. By asking the questions above, the first stage of the project aims to provide a comprehensive examination of the current state of Careers Leadership in schools. Your responses will be used as the basis of a report highlighting the challenges that you are faced with. They will then be lobbying those agencies of influence and power, asking them to make the changes needed to support young people with highly valued careers education.
Now more than ever young people need and deserve an outstanding Careers Education. From our conversations with those leading Careers at the chalkface, we know that delivering on this promise has been, to put it mildly, extremely difficult this year. The ‘Careers Leadership at the Chalkface’ project seeks to give a voice to those members of staff who are seeking to maximise opportunities for young people, whose voice is often silenced or ignored. By completing the survey, we can take a giant stride in identifying where our problems lie and, in turn, our first step in fixing them.
Direct access to the survey can be found here https://bit.ly/CareersChalkFace