Quality Control & Assessment

The new CEC Careers Impact Review

Monday 6th November 2023
Janet Colledge

A new assessment process has been launched by the Careers & Enterprise Company, heralded with a fanfare in a PR release in FE News this week, headlined

Teachers back new scheme to drive careers education excellence everywhere | FE News

Now I'm all for anything that improves careers education, information advice and guidance in any way and I read the article closely. However, somebody said something to me that brought me up short and made me stop and think.

Why are the Government paying the CEC to develop something that we already have in existence?

That something is the Quality in Careers Standard; full disclosure, when I was working in schools I worked towards one of the Quality Awards that were in existence at the time. Since then all the Awards have been harmonised and are now replaced by one single national Standard which is delivered by a number of Licensed Awarding Bodies who themselves are all carefully and regularly assessed to confirm that they are delivering high quality support and consistent national assessments. I should know as I've been on the board of the Quality in Careers Consortium which owns the Standard for a number of years and have taken part in a number of the processes where Licensed Awarding Bodies are required, every 3 years, to demonstrate their efficacy and continued adherence to the requirements set by the Consortium.

OK so I might be a bit biased. I'll admit that but the question still remains. Why is the Government strongly recommending the Quality in Careers Standard in the statutory guidance but then paying the CEC to develop another assessment system? The following quote comes from the Guide to the Quality in Careers Standard :-

The DfE and Gatsby are funding the Careers Impact Review System pilot and the DfE hopes that it will encourage more schools and colleges to consider working towards the Quality in Careers Standard by increasing their confidence to seek external assessment. Working with the Careers & Enterprise Company, the Consortium will be analysing its data to track this.

There is much commonality and synergy, as would be expected, between the Careers Impact Review System pilot and the Quality in Careers Standard. Secondary schools, special schools and colleges that are working towards or have achieved the Quality in Careers Standard, for example, will be well-placed to make accurate, substantiated self-evaluation judgements about their practice.

Assessors for the Quality in Careers Standard who carry out assessments in a secondary school, special school or college participating in the pilot should take any indicators or learning from the Careers Impact Review System pilot into account and continue to make their independent judgements on the quality of the careers provision irrespective of how well the school, special school or college rates itself within the Careers Impact Review System pilot.

For those who have never heard me say this, and that can't be many of you.

So speaking personally, I'm still unconvinced why there needs to be a Gatsby/CEC peer assessment in place in order to 'encourage' schools to improve. Why not just put funding into the Standard to help schools who are struggling financially?

As I understand it, during the trial period the majority of the schools were peer assessed that is with a similar school, college or PRU. About a third underwent an expert assessment. Once the mainstream system comes online it is intended that all will be peer assessed. This leads me to ask a few questions

  • How will the quality of assessment be monitored?
  • Who decides who monitors who? It appears to be the local careers hub, I may be wrong in this.
  • How often will the monitoring be and how will it be recorded?
  • How often will reassessment take place?
  • Is it looking at anything other that the Gatsby Benchmarks? They ARE important but are not the whole story.

So yes I'm still wavering on the side of being unconvinced.

How much did it cost for the Government to fund the development of a quality assurance system to encourage schools to go for the quality assurance system we already have in place?

I can have a guess at this one, please note this is a very rough estimate based on figures provided by the Government and the CEC via their published grant funding agreements on page 20 gives a rough idea - It says that the CEC get £3.1m for

Continued development and roll out of Careers Impact Review System (CIRS):
Develop and deliver online professional careers awareness training for the wider education workforce
Careers Leader Training and Professional Development Fund:
Careers Hub Leadership Development

So lets say that's £750,000

On page 26 a further £2m was allocated for
Develop and maintain digital products to support the delivery of Careers and Education Leadership which includes amongst the 7 outcomes

Scoping the development of a digital tool and processes to support CIRS

So let's say £285,700

Then in July 23 a Grant funding variation added an additional £52,500 for

Extension of the Careers Impact Review System rollout

So lets add that up, they've had almost £1.1m to develop this system THIS YEAR

In addition in the 22/23 grant funding there was £925,000 to

support and enable careers leaders and this covered 6 areas including Develop and implement a National Careers Impact Review System so that's roughly another £154,166

AND then another variation gave £493,000 for 5 strands of Provide additional training and resources to support with disadvantage of which one was to

Initial evaluation of the Careers Impact Review System so another £95,000

So for the cost of developing this system SO FAR they could have fully funded about 900 schools to complete the Quality in Careers Standard AND have them assessed by people who are qualified and experienced in CEIAG in schools. When you consider that, in my opinion, one of the major obstacles to schools achieving the Standard is budget constraints rather than lack of confidence.

All this when the CEC's own State of the Nation Report in 2017 said

'The data shows that schools that hold the Quality in Careers Standard performed significantly better than schools without one achieving 67.3% of the sub-Benchmarks compared with 50.8% respectively.'

The 2018 State of the Nation report said...

The strongest correlation with a higher Overall Benchmark Score was schools and colleges that had sought and achieved a Quality in Careers Standard... This provides a strong indication that the impact of the Quality in Careers Standard is a real one and cannot be explained through chance or by any other factors.

In both 2022 and 2023 the CEC provided data that the Quality in Careers Standard supported schools and colleges in improving their CEIAG offer with the 2023 report stating

'Education institutions accredited under the Quality in Careers Standard achieved an average of 5.6 Gatsby Benchmarks in 2021/22. This is one benchmark higher than the previous year.

This is the same as for the schools and colleges that have been in a Careers Hub the longest.

The national average for schools and colleges of 4.9 and for all those in a Careers Hub (5.1).

Schools and colleges with accreditation that were also in Careers Hubs achieved, on average, 5.6 Gatsby Benchmarks (N=507).

Those with accreditation that were not in a Careers Hub achieved, on average, 5.2 (N=108).

So am I convinced that the development of the peer assessment programme been worthwhile and good value for money? Worthwhile for the schools and colleges involved and theCEC possibly, good value for money, probably not. I must emphasise this is my own personal opinion, not the opinion of any company or organisation that I work for or am associated with. I'd love to know what you think?

The final impact report from the CEC