Reflecting on Mike Britland’s (TF Careers Network’s Chair) excellent recent article entitled ‘The importance of buy-in: the push versus the pull’ in which he highlights the challenge of securing buy-in for Careers Education from schools’ senior leadership teams (SLT) amidst an array of competing school priorities, it struck me that governance has a vital role to play in championing the power of Careers. As with anything, if something isn’t embedded into the values and ethos of the organisation, and given the care and consideration it requires operationally, it is never going to reach its full potential. Thankfully, schools can increasingly call upon their very own Careers champions who sit on a Local Governing Body at a school (or Trustees at a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT)), helping to support whilst remaining unafraid to challenge existing provision for Careers Education, allowing it to thrive – the Careers Governor.
According to the DfE’s statutory guidance, “Every school and college should have a member of their governing body who takes a strategic interest in careers education and guidance and encourages employer engagement.” Schools must give regard to statutory guidance, which sets a clear framework for the provision of advice and guidance. It states that governing bodies must ensure that independent careers guidance is:
- presented in an impartial manner, showing no bias or favouritism towards a particular institution, education or work option;
- includes information on the range of education or training options, including apprenticeships and technical education routes;
- guidance that the person giving it considers will promote the best interests of the students to whom it is given.
In practice, this means that not only do Careers Governors ensure a school is meeting its statutory obligations (e.g. ensuring the Careers programme and name of the Careers Leader are published on the school’s website) but also that they have a crucial strategic role to play in connecting their school with the wider community in order to enhance the education and career aspirations of students. This can extend to developing community links; involvement in securing speakers, mentors and work experience placements, often through third-party organisations, all of which can help engage employers in the school. As part of my role as link Governor for Careers at a local comprehensive, Coleridge Community College, I have worked alongside the school and organisations such as Form the Future and East Learning to augment the existing school programme to deliver a truly holistic Careers offering for the benefit of the students, both now and for their futures.
Furthermore, the Careers Governor can also help bridge the gap between the staff member responsible on the ground (who may be stretched and whose responsibilities may extend across multiple areas across the school) and the SLT, making sure that those at all levels are held to account. To make Careers Education truly transformational, it must factor into every decision that is made in school improvement planning with the goal of developing students’ skills, knowledge and understanding required to make appropriate choices, manage transitions in learning and to move successfully into the world of work. At United Learning, the UK’s largest MAT with over 80 schools, and the one in which Coleridge Community College sits, ‘Education with Character’ is a core principle of the MAT’s Framework for Excellence. The intention, therefore, is that academic learning and character development dovetail so that students are set up for achievement. As part of their commitment, they have recently appointed a MAT-wide Strategic Careers Lead to:
- Support improvements in the delivery of careers information, advice and guidance
- Support the secondary schools to ensure they offer a highly effective and coordinated careers curriculum across all key stages
- Support the primary schools to shape an ambitious careers framework.
As part of this new role, the post-holder consulted with a number of the MAT’s link Governors for Careers, including myself. By seeking advice from designated specialists, the MAT now has the ability to develop solutions relating to national careers education provision based on robust, experience-based information. This approach, bringing together Governors with the MAT’s overarching Careers Lead, ensures that individual schools have a voice in informing MAT-wide policy, a decision that will pool collective Careers expertise for the good of children all over the country.
Crucially, Governors aren’t involved in the day-to-day running of a school. Thus, monitoring processes are paramount. Key things for Governors to monitor could include:
- Improvement plans for careers provision (ideally linked to the School Improvement Plan)
- The efficiency and effectiveness of careers interactions
- Work experience provision
- Pupil and parent engagement
This can be done through:
- Regular (at least half-termly) meetings with the Careers Leader
- Visits to the school to witness careers interactions first-hand
- Obtaining pupil, parents and staff voice relating to careers education
- Reports from the Careers Leader
Careers education in schools must no longer be an afterthought and, to enable it to be implemented effectively, there must be participation at all levels within individual schools and, more widely, across MATs. That is where a Careers Governor can make the difference.
Some questions, taken from ‘The Careers Strategy Guidance for Governors’ (The Careers & Enterprise Company) presentation, to ask your own school’s SLT/local governing body: