Few, if any, would argue with the assertion that high quality careers guidance is a ‘good thing’, but what is good quality careers guidance? How do we know that careers guidance practice is effective?
Since the demise of the Connexions Service in England in 2012, schools have been passed the baton of ensuring good quality careers guidance is provided, but experience has revealed inconsistencies in practice and indeed variation in the models employed by schools to meet government requirements. There is still much to be done to universalise access to high quality careers guidance. A BBC News feature pointed out that top university is ‘not a destination for many schools‘ and ‘five schools send more to Oxbridge than 2,000 others‘.
Further, in the Daily Telegraph it was written that in an Ofsted report ‘… three-quarters of schools were not providing decent, impartial advice. The weakest schools attempted to deliver guidance during assemblies and even directed pupils to websites to do their own research‘.
The bottom line for schools is always going to be:
- Time (there is never enough), and
- Funding (there is never enough)
However, there are things that can be done to move towards provision of high quality careers guidance.
- Evaluate the data available
Look at the destinations of students in previous years, and labour market information available.
Use of former pupils who have moved into particular occupations can help give students useful insights.
- Ask the students!
Involve them in the design and evaluation of guidance provision.
- Use key CEIAG frameworks
e.g. the Matrix Standard / the CDI Framework for careers, employability and enterprise education / the ACEG Framework for careers and work-related education/ the Gatsby Foundation Eight Benchmarks; these can help identify strengths and areas for development.
- Measure the impact on motivation (students and staff)
e.g. achievement, behaviours, 11-16 and post-16 recruitment and retention.
We now have the added complication of qualification reforms to contend with too. Key questions to ask about these are:
- Do those responsible for providing advice and guidance fully understand the details of the new systems: GCSE, A Level and BTEC? DON’T assume they do!
- Do parents and students in younger years know and understand what is happening?
- How will the new number grading scale for GCSEs affect sixth form/college/apprenticeship entry criteria and university admissions policies? The jury is out on whether universities will accept grade 4 or 5 at GCSE, but early indications are that grade 5 will be preferred in many cases.
- Will more students decide on alternative routes to A levels after Year 11 if linear A Levels are more demanding? Do teachers know enough about career entry routes from vocational courses or apprenticeships?
- What will ACTUALLY happen to the AS Level? Some school sixth forms and colleges will continue to offer AS levels, others will not in order to focus on A level teaching. Universities are likely to place more importance on GCSE attainment in the light of this.
- Will students, parents and schools/ colleges question the point of sitting externally assessed AS exams when they no longer contribute to A level grades (at least in the case of linear A levels at this time)?
- What impact will new A Levels have on curriculum design, especially after 2016?
To gain an overall picture of the provision in your institution, carrying out an audit of existing CEIAG is a good basis to begin. In many instances there are standalone careers-related activities taking place in schools, but lack of a co-ordinating function may mean that it is not recognised and could even be duplicated by other members of staff. The document Careers engagement: a good practice brief for leaders of schools and colleges provides a very good audit tool to assess CEIAG standards.
For careers guidance to have a positive and sustained impact, it requires:
- School vision
- Commitment at senior level
- A co-ordinating function e.g. a designated member of staff
- A system for evaluation and review of services
- That careers education is embedded into the broader curriculum e.g. subject links to careers are shown at opportune times
- A professionally qualified guidance practitioner; some academy chains or other schools employ their own advisor, others will buy in services
- Local brokerage and partner organisations who contribute to careers education e.g. employers, colleges, universities, training providers (apprenticeships)
- Proper resourcing – preferably a careers room which is stocked with up-to-date high-quality material and accessible to students e.g. not out of bounds during lunch and break times!
To conclude, it is the argument of this article that high quality careers education and guidance has a key role to play in the advancement of individual students, ultimately to the benefit of wider society and the economy.
Good career decisions are based on high quality advice, information and guidance which should be an ongoing co-ordinated process, not ad hoc isolated activities. Schools and colleges have a pivotal role to play in this and it is right and proper that it is at the heart of their ethos.
This is an excerpt from careers advisor Ray Le Tarouilly’s article The Importance of High Quality Careers Guidance in Education. Read the full article below:
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