The following is very much an initial take on what is being said in today’s Ofsted report. I am really only trying to get my head around what the implications are, so I will be very happy if people can provide me with further commentary and feedback on these initial remarks.
Ofsted have undertaken a review of career guidance which is published as Going in the Right Direction. Based on a review of 60 schools it probably represents the most reliable piece of empirical evidence published so far about the current situation with respect to career guidance in English schools. The report begins with a pretty clear statement.
The new statutory duty for schools to provide careers guidance is not working well enough. Of the 60 schools visited for this survey, only 12 had ensured that all students received sufficient information to consider a wide breadth of career possibilities.
It highlights the fact that the Government’s statutory guidance is too loose as one of the key problems. It stresses that schools are trying to provide career support, but makes it clear that, at present, they are not sure on how to best do this. This frequently results in schools delivering information and advice using exisitng teaching staff, who frequently have an insufficient knowledge base to do this well. This is particularly the case with respect to vocational education. The report identifies a concerning tendency for career guidance interviews to be used to exclusively push higher education routes.
The more effective careers guidance interviews were generally carried out by external, qualified careers guidance professionals or an internal specialist who had had significant experience and training in providing individual careers guidance.
Ofsted also found little evidence of employer involvement in schools or in the delivery of career education and work-related learning within the school.
Links with employers were the weakest aspect of career guidance in the 60 schools visited. About two thirds of the schools reported that they had cut down on their work experience provision for their students in Years 10 and 11, for budgetary reasons and because of the recommendation in the Wolf report.
The report also highlights problems in the relationship between schools and local authorities. The report is also critical of the (very limited) provision that is available through the National Careers Service. Another area highlighted for improvement is that of evaluating career support and tracking learner outcomes (destinations).
More positively the report was able to identify a number of places where career support was being successfully delivered by schools. These schools generally recieved strong leadership on careers from their senior leaders and governors.
Without wishing to say “I told you so!”, I don’t think that any of these findings come as a tremendous surprise to me or other people involved in the careers world. Nonetheless I think that it is very useful to have something robust like the Ofsted report to confirm our suspicions. Ofsted are to be applauded for stating the situation so clearly. The important question is now, what is to be done?
- Government should tighten up the statutory guidance to make it clear what is expected.
- Government should also improve destinations information. Which does raise the question – how is this going to be done in a way that ensures reasonable quality data?
- Employers should do more with schools. But, no new drivers are suggested here.
- The NCS should have a role to support schools. It should also improve its web and phone services for young people. Which leaves us with a question about how this should be funded and to what level.
- Schools should take this area more seriously in a host of ways.
- Ofsted should make sure that inspectors are looking at career guidance and student destinations in inspections.
All in all this report seems like a pretty clear and straightforward statement of what has gone wrong. it sets out some useful ways forward, but these are really only a direction of travel. How the government chooses to respond (both immediately and more importantly in implementation) to this will be critical.