The Careers and Enterprise Company published a final report in September 2021 entitled ‘Personal Guidance Fund Evaluation’. At the Regional Careers Leader Network Meeting, in November at St James’ Park in Newcastle, organised by the North East LEP for all Careers Leaders in schools in the North East region, as a Trust, we were invited to present our response to this report and to provide insights to other schools as to how we deliver effective high-quality Personal Guidance across our Trust.
The report considers five key strands (see page iv in the report) and we decided to concentrate in detail on three of these strands:
1. The effectiveness of different approaches
- For Personal Guidance to be effective in needs to be integrated into the wider careers education, information, advice and guidance across the schools. It is not a stand-alone strand, and it must be built into a school’s careers strategy, linking seamlessly. Therefore, colleagues who are delivering personal guidance need to be aware of the wider careers strategy in school.
- It is important that schools adopt a mantra of ‘every member of staff is a teacher of careers’. So personal guidance doesn’t just revolve around one person – but wider advice giving is the responsibility of every member of staff. All new colleagues will need an induction, so they understand their role – we have built this into our induction programme for all staff who join the Academy Trust.
- It is important to remember though that most colleagues in school will provide ‘advice’ and trained professionals provide the ‘guidance’. They have the qualifications in giving guidance but that doesn’t just mean they are the only source of advice.
- Across our Trust we have an internal Careers Advisor who is employed by the Trust. There are many reasons why we decided to do this:
- One consistent Advisor who is part of the Trust staff team who students recognise, know where she is based, know where to call in for support, access to the Careers email address, featured on own Careers websites.
- Both students & colleagues know they have an effective point of contact.
- Stronger working relationships between the Careers Advisor and the students and the Trust team
- Students more prepared to engage with the Careers Advisor
- Support careers education throughout both schools
- Liaising with Heads of Year, SENDCO, Sixth Form teams, local authority
- Works to the code of conduct established across the Trust – part of the appraisal system of the school with me as line manager to ensure that the Careers Advisor can develop professionally within the school whilst at the same time supporting the vision and Trust development plan.
- Evaluation is built into the programme – instant feedback during interviews, feedback after interviews, external reviews.
- We also have Progression Advisors involved in Raising Aspirations across the Trust:
- Within the Sixth Form team – not just targeting our own Sixth Form, but looking at post-16 and then post-18 destinations in general to establish an appropriate route for each student
- Liaising with Further and Higher Education to provide targeted experiences for our young people.
2. Working with different beneficiary groups
- The key to successful Personal Guidance is ensuring that the guidance is targeted appropriately:
- Across our Trust, all students are guaranteed an individual personal guidance interview in Year 11 and Year 13. 45-minute appointment to explore all aspects of post-16 and post-18 progression.
- An action plan is generated which is given to the student and information given to parents via letter.
- Students targeted in a particular order – SEND, Pupil Premium, disadvantaged students first – to allow opportunities for following-up with these students later.
- Many students also receive further opportunities for individual advice from Progression Advisors which again generate actions which can be followed up later.
- To be effective in providing Personal Guidance, the Careers Advisor has access to the data/profile for each student to ensure they provide appropriate guidance for that individual. The Careers Advisor is involved in:
- Supporting with EHCP reviews
- Liaising with the Local Authority for vulnerable students who continue to be supported by the LA
- Working with specific groups of students targeting specific pathways
- Arranging visits, additional activities for specific groups of students
- Record keeping – essential for accurate Destinations Data tracking
- Working with parents – by being present at Parents’ Evenings, Open Evenings and other school events.
- Telephone/Video conferencing guidance
- Home visits
3. Impact of personal guidance on students
Clearly, to understand if Personal Guidance has been effective, this can be demonstrated through the impact.
Here are two case studies of where Personal Guidance has had the most impact on our students:
- Initial Personal Guidance interview in October. At that time undecided as to future plans – lots of ideas but no secure pathway.
- Regular meetings with Careers Advisor to follow up on action points, such as attending Open Evenings.
- Decided on Apprenticeship route – but then the first lockdown hit!
- During lockdown, telephone guidance interviews.
- Vacancies updates as part of our weekly Careers Bulletin sent home to all students and parents.
- Application support and mock interview practice remotely.
- Successful at gaining an Apprenticeship with a major Travel Agency.
- Continues to update Careers Advisor on progress.
- Erratic attendance throughout Year 11 but was confident about training or apprenticeship pathway.
- Initial Personal Guidance interview with Careers Advisor followed by regular follow-up meeting to check progress on action points.
- Referred to attend a training provider open event who were impressed and offered a place.
- During summer holidays, decided no longer wanted to complete that course at a training provider but instead go to a Further Education College.
- Careers Advisor met with student and parents during summer holidays – arranged for a college visit and meeting with tutors.
- Enrolled in September and really enjoying the course at College.
- Parent delighted at the level of personal guidance provided by school at every step.
The most important piece of evidence of a successful Careers Strategy is without the Destinations Data. Personal Guidance has a significant weight on generating strong Destinations Data figures.
Here are the 2020 Destinations Data highlights across both of our schools in the Trust:
- 99% of students in both schools engaged in education, employment or training (EET).
- No students were ‘unknown’.
- 100% of non-disadvantaged students engaged in EET.
- 96% & 97% of disadvantaged students engaged in EET.
- In one school: 100% of SEND students engaged in EET
- Post-18: 86% of students progressed to Higher Education (in 18 different HE providers, including 30 students going to Russell Group universities)
- Increase in the numbers of students post-18 going into Apprenticeships and other training.
Internal v External Careers Guidance
Finally, there is a debate which is growing about the effectiveness of internal v external careers guidance. As mentioned, we have our own internal Careers Advisor and I am a big advocate for every school having a careers advisor as an essential part of the school team; however, every school is different and there are lots of factors involved.
Whatever side of the debate, I believe that there are five key non-negotiables that all schools should adopt when working with Careers Guidance professionals:
- Good communication is essential
- Careers Advisor and other professionals can work with the Careers Leader to develop the Careers programme and strategy. Careers Leaders are not often trained careers guidance professionals, so they need the support of the Careers Advisor to develop the Careers programme and strategy.
- Essential that the Careers Advisor is introduced to the school – to both colleagues to students. Colleagues need to understand their role and how they will work.
- Ensure the Careers Advisor has access to the information they need about each student – they must not be working in isolation and blindly completing personal guidance sessions.
- Develop robust monitoring and evaluation to continuously improve the effectiveness of guidance.