Dear Mr Hunt
I hear many good things about you in the careers education field. I’ve lost track of how many people uttered sentences along the lines of ‘Oh Tristram’s behind good careers work.’ So it is with that in mind that I write to you.
A little background, I’m a careers education consultant who has 25 years secondary teaching experience behind her. Nowadays, I go into schools doing what an advisory teacher did back when I was newly qualified. I passionately believe that school is where young people learn to take control of their own life and destiny. If we don’t prepare young people with the skills that are needed by society they will be forever disadvantaged and possibly a drain on society.
Careers Education, Information & Guidance (CEIAG) as it is now
As it stands, the current government have decimated careers work with young people. Schools now have a duty to provide impartial careers guidance to their pupils but with no extra money and in most cases nobody in the school with enough knowledge to be able to do it. Connexions and EBPs (Education Business Partnerships) are all but gone, though some, thankfully, still exist.
Ofsted, though they say that they will report on CEIAG under the heading of Leadership & Management, have it seems done little to actually report on it. Very few recent Ofsted reports even mention careers provision. Also the government is meant to be publishing updated statutory guidance for schools on what good careers looks like. However, we’re still waiting for this over 4 months after the government undertook to deliver it.
Currently, Mr Gove is calling for employers to get involved – I’m not sure if he sees this as a cheap solution, As Prof Alison Wolf wrote in her book Does Education Matter?, “the simple one-way relationship – education spending in, economic growth out – simply doesn’t exist”. Recession may have underlined her point but there is no way on earth that one can provide a good service on fresh air.
We have seen that employers can and should have a place in delivering workplace awareness (Though note I say awareness, not guidance) and should do so as part of their corporate social responsibility. However, to think that this can be done at zero cost is naive. Every teacher will be able to truthfully tell you that it takes hours to arrange a mutually agreeable time, topic and method of delivery. Teachers don’t have that time with their current workloads. Add to that the problem that is safeguarding and you have 2 obstacles right there. In the end you might get a brilliant session that meets your objectives or you may get a boring fat cat who spends the entire time telling the young people how wonderful he or she is.
Another by-product of the current situation is that many groups of people can see the need for support for careers, but the reality is that many people are reinventing the wheel. I have a pretty wide-ranging view of the careers world and I see CICs and charity groups duplicating effort and complicating the job of the school in choosing resources.
CEIAG a way forward
For pupils to be effective workers within society, they need, in this 21stC digitally fast world, certain career development skills. not just a CV and a mock interview day. They need to understand that they need to develop for themselves the skills they need to be able to manage their career route, which research shows us these days might need as many as 7 or more career changes, some of these jobs might be for jobs that don’t even exist yet. So what is the way forward? I propose a 3 pronged approach.
Career Development Literacy
In much the same way financial or emotional literacy or just plain old-fashioned literacy are central to the curriculum, let’s bring careers development literacy to the classroom. Every subject teaches something that is a useful career skill. PE teaches teamwork, RE ethics, and so on. Let’s use these links to ensure that pupils get a well-rounded view of these skills and are able to identify them and adapt them to their own needs. A careers development logo can be used to signpost careers input in subject lessons. There are so many advantages of this method, not least teachers start to see careers as a small part of their responsibility and INSET can be provided to support development. To support this change, every school should have either an in house specialist in careers education or at least access to a local network who can support delivery. (I did say above nothing good happens for zero cost)
Last Thursday I was at the Education & Employers Taskforce 3rd annual conference and heard Prof Alison Wolf speak. Yes she that recommended work related learning be struck from the curriculum, on several occasions stated that work experience is an important part of a young persons careers education. For most who experience it at 15, it’s a wake up call to do well at their exams or a confirmation or otherwise of what they want to do with their lives. If you wait till 16, those who have chosen to go into apprenticeships will not have any experience of workplace culture before the employers take them on. So bring back work experience to KS4.
Information & Guidance
So finally I come to the part that many people see as ‘careers’ the guidance process. Careers advisers are qualified to post grad level for this process. You’d not expect a graduate in animal husbandry to teach a lesson, so why expect a teacher to be a careers adviser? Teachers are great at pushing the academic route, for most it’s the route they took. However, even if they have experienced other jobs, their knowledge will often be out of date by the time they’re speaking to young people in the classroom. Make sure that every young person gets access to impartial guidance in tandem with impartial information and career development skills. Yes I know head teachers want and need to fill their 6th forms but that should be subsidiary to the needs of the young person.
So to conclude, I ask you to put careers at the centre of the educational spotlight, I know many will be against my thoughts, especially those that value education for educations sake. I’m a pragmatist, I feel that education today needs to change radically in order to prepare our young people to take part in society. We no longer had the luxury of being able to afford, financially or socially an education system that doesn’t do this.
further letters to Tristram Hunt can be seen at http://blogsync.edutronic.net/