From forming to performing – a starting point for the new careers leader

Careers Leader role

By Janet Colledge

Mention careers to most teachers and their understanding is that it is a careers interview, perhaps a few CV lessons and a bit of work experience. Outside of the careers profession there is a distinct lack of awareness of CEIAG in its fullest sense. As a newly, or even not so newly, appointed careers leader there is going to be a period of transition from a low level of general teacher awareness to a higher level as demanded by the latest incarnation of the statutory guidance for careers published last January, the backbone of which are the Gatsby Benchmarks.

Given that the introduction of the new guidance is going to necessitate the forming of new structures and teams, I’m mindful of the term “forming, storming, norming, and performing” coined by psychologist Bruce Tuckman who first came up with the memorable phrase in his 1965 article, “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups.” Your role as team leader at the start of this new journey is to direct the team, and establish clear objectives, both for the team as a whole and for individual team members. That establishes you as the school expert and places you in the role of advising the Governors and SLT of the correct path towards compliance with the guidance. I can see the panic in your eyes but take it step by step, start reading and insist on some CPD training to support you in your role. In the meantime, here’s my starting point guide…

Benchmarks 5 and 7

Many teachers have never heard of the Gatsby Benchmarks but the media has picked up heavily on the Government message of the need for employer encounters (Benchmark 5). Most, but sadly not all SLT have come across the Baker Clause which insists that all schools have an access policy for external agencies to have access to pupils. This helps support encounters with H&FE (Benchmark 7) which requires encounters with sixth form colleges, apprenticeship providers, FE & HE colleges and independent training providers. It also requires encounters with universities and also at least 2 university visits per child. The latter should be no problem in most schools but the earlier list may just give some SLT a few headaches

That still leaves 6 benchmarks to communicate to the majority of school staff. This is a huge task that many newly appointed careers leaders will be struggling with once in post.

Benchmark 3

Addressing the needs of every pupil (Benchmark 3) should be second nature to all teachers but many will need support in understanding CEIAG sufficiently to put it into practice. This benchmark will probably only fall into place when the rest of the benchmarks are addressed. Don’t forget you have until 2020 to achieve the benchmarks.

Benchmark 4

Most schools will have some form of careers learning either in the PSHE curriculum or in a drop day or two. What is often missing is the delivery of careers learning throughout the curriculum. Even the much quoted Compass tool from the CEC only askes about careers learning in Maths, English, Science and PSHE. So just what is the definition of linking curriculum learning to careers (Benchmark 4)? That is up to your school to define; as long as the basics above are covered, further expansion can be left until a later date. However, don’t forget, there will be relevant content in many of the schemes of work throughout the school and you may be making extra work for yourself if you fail to audit what is already in place.

Benchmark 2

Learning from career and labour market information (Benchmark 2) requires the acquisition of skills to enable not just young people but also those teaching them to understand and interpret LMI. Who will deliver this aspect? I’m pretty certain that most teachers would, quite rightly, be wary of their ability to deliver this being overestimated. LMI is a very complex subject. Hold on to that thought until later in the article.

Benchmark 6

Experience of the workplace (Benchmark 6) is a breeze if your school is one of those that hasn’t ditched work experience but what if your school has? Well the good news there is that the Compass Tool defines workplace experiences as “work visits, work shadowing and/or work experience.”

Benchmark 1 and 8

That leaves us with 2 benchmarks – a stable programme (Benchmark 1), will come together naturally as your school works through the benchmarks. It just necessitates the management overview to turn it into a communicable document that can be shared outside of the school.

Personal guidance (Benchmark 8), is however, a real challenge in many schools. Given the lack of cash in the budget many schools have ceased to provide access to qualified careers professionals. Some have allocated unqualified people to fill the role, others just don’t bother at all. The Gatsby benchmarks require access to ‘an appropriately qualified’ careers practitioner. The careers strategy and statutory guidance defines this as being one on the Career Development Institute’s registered professional list. Having a well-qualified careers professional on your team will make the job of being a careers leader so much easier as they have skill that make planning and delivery so much easier plus, remember that problem about LMI? They can help significantly with that.

Now you know all that, it’s time to get the SLT on board and supporting what you do…

Janet Colledge is a fully qualified teacher with over 15 years experience providing award winning careers education @CareersDefender.

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