#CharacterVsKnowledge where does careers learning fit?

Sunday 26th April 2015

Yesterday I attended Character vs Knowledge at East London Science School. I went because I often have a conversation with teachers along the lines of:-

Me "Every teacher can have an input into careers education".

Subject teacher "I'm not an expert, I'm here to teach (insert subject here) besides, they see the careers adviser".

Me "I'm not talking about careers advice, I'm talking about equipping pupils to link what they learn in school to the outside world".

Subject Teacher "Not my job, I have enough to do meeting the National Curriculum requirements".

Conversations vary but with the exception of a few like-minded souls, I hit the wall thrown up, often to defend against the tsunami of workload, that teaching knowledge is the subject teacher's job not other stuff.

Whilst I found the academic cut and thrust of yesterday's event interesting and stimulating, I found myself wondering where the skills needed to decide upon and follow one's own careers path came. Are they part of knowledge or part of character?

Careers Learning, where does it fit into the character vs knowledge continuum?

My own thinking is that they are skills that fit into knowledge and they are habits that drive character. This is probably why I found myself nodding a lot during Katie Ashford's input. Her take was that schools contribute to character whether we like it or not

Teachers teach habits every day. Many of these habits are forms of employability skills. They transfer from the school into the workplace:-

Dress = safety rules, uniform, the effects of appearance on daily interaction

Manners = teamworking, acceptable behaviours, workplace code

Punctuality = responsibility as well as the employer loved punctuality

Rule compliance again = team working, acceptable behaviours, workplace code as well as having a huge effect on general employability

Underling titles = house styles and expected behaviours.

So the continual reinforcements of these habits could be argued to be teaching careers learning (employability skills) so what arguement can/should teachers have for or against linking their subjects to the working world?

Knowledge Develops Character

Summer Turner's excellent introduction to the day mooted the idea that knowledge develops character, for example studying Jane Eyre is an excellent vehicle for examining society had me wondering where the National Curriculum allows this much less promotes it. Don't get me wrong, I agree wholeheartedly with this example of holistic education, sadly though the wholesale reliance of society to judge schools through their exam results and ability to send pupils to Russell Group universities; we are unable as a profession to teach holistically. There is simply no room for the poor classroom teacher to follow the tangent and examine the social setting of Jane Eyre within society rather than the power of the narrative to persuade.

Examining my ideals

So having come to this conclusion, I can see the reasoning behind the type of conversations I outlined at the start of this blog even more starkly. I've always understood and respected teachers unwillingness to take on further workload. My entreaties have always been designed to attract willing participants rather than compel. However, I remain as emphatically pro contextualised careers learning as ever. My empirical evidence gleaned over 25+ years of teaching tells me that I'm correct. So where does this leave me on the continuum? Hmmm

Who should decide upon educational policy

The afternoon session asked us to consider:-Parents, politicians and teachers, who should determine the purpose and course of education?

This seemed to have missed out one group that the Goverment of today seems intent on giving power, employers. This led me to comment from the floor that I felt that by shutting down Connexions and giving the duty for careers learning to unprepared schools who lack money and expertise in careers learning; the Government had effectively given power to employers to dictate educational content by their promotion of employer engagement and the creation of the new, as yet unnamed £50m careers company A little sadly in my view, this got distilled down to this

From floor-"does employer led careers company mean employers will now be dictating what we're teaching young people?" #charactervsknowledge

— Schools Week (@SchoolsWeek) April 25, 2015

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThanks to Ty Goddard who picked up on my main point that schools don't have the capacity, money or expertise to deal with this new statutory duty.

Banging my head against the wall

Taking us full circle once again I had a couple of conversations with other delegates about the Vision 2040 documents which were published by SSAT this week. Whilst I agree on a whole with their aim and standpoint, one thing worries my greatly. one of the recomendations in Building a concensus is to "Conduct research into how to measure or assess character education". The line, what can be measured is valued seemed to resonate.

So why include careers learning throughout the curriculum

The report by Tristram Hooley et all for Sutton Trust looks at the effect of good careers learning on the progress and attainment of pupils. One of the reports main recomendations was that

The statutory guidance should highlight the value of Quality Awards as a mechanism for driving improvement in career guidance and a guarantor of quality provision

The Quality in Careers Standard is a consortium of quality awarding bodies whose awards are nationally recognised as recognising of high level careers education, information advice and guidance (CEIAG) in schools throughout the country. In fact the latest statutory guidance for schools published just a month ago advised schools

The Government recommends that all schools should work towards a quality award for careers education, information, advice and guidance as an effective means of carrying out a self-review and evaluation of the school's programme.

So who cares if it's character or knowledge? We have gotta measure it in some way. At least QICS enables development of careers learning and skills. So I'll finish off with a quote from a colleague of mine @DrSimonDavey who was quoted by a tweet yesterday

"You cannot teach character and resilience, but you can enable it." - comment from the floor. #charactervsknowledge

— Katie Ashford (@katie_s_ashford) April 25, 2015


Advancing Amtitions University of Derby for Sutton Trust

Building Consensus SSAT

QICS Careers England

Statutory Guidance for Careers in Schools