The job of careers leader combines the roles of IAG manager and subject leader for careers education. The former role involves managing the provision of careers information and securing access to careers advice and guidance at times when pupils need it. But all pupils also need a programme of careers education in the curriculum that equips them with the knowledge and skills to make choices and manage transitions.
Someone needs to take responsibility for leading this area of the curriculum, to plan the schemes of work, to support members of staff delivering careers education, whether in subject lessons or a part of a PSHE programme, and to monitor teaching and learning in careers education. In many schools the subject leader for careers education is the careers leader, but in others it is a colleague with whom the careers leader works closely in order to make sure that the provision of careers education forms an integral part of the whole programme of career guidance activities.
Up until 2012 careers education was part of the statutory curriculum for pupils in Years 7 to 11 and then, for no clear reason, the statutory duty to provide careers education in secondary schools was dropped. The Gatsby benchmarks tell us that pupils need access to careers information, advice and guidance and meaningful encounters with employers and with providers of future study options. But young people also need to be helped to develop the knowledge and skills to plan and manage their careers on a lifelong basis. Rather worryingly, the DfE’s own research in 2015 found that 1 in 6 schools had dropped careers education from the curriculum since the statutory requirement had been removed.
Specifically, pupils need to learn how to review their strengths and weaknesses (self-development), to research opportunities (career exploration), and to make career decisions and prepare for transitions (career management). In an era when young people will be seeking information on the internet and making applications online these skills should include digital career management skills. Furthermore, to succeed in the initial moves beyond school pupils will also need to acquire employability skills and the skills to manage independent learning. In recent years there has been a lot of attention paid to employability skills but for most young people the first move after leaving school will be on to a course of further education, higher education or an apprenticeship, not a job.
When careers education was statutory the government provided a national framework of recommended learning outcomes that schools could use to guide curriculum planning but since the statutory duty was removed in 2012 there have been no official guidelines on the knowledge and skills that should be developed through careers education. The Gatsby benchmarks that the DfE expects all schools to follow describe a set of activities and inputs but there is no complementary set of learning objectives. The CDI has filled this gap by publishing a framework for careers, employability and enterprise education 7-19. Careers leaders can download a copy of the framework and supporting resources from https://www.thecdi.net/write/CDI-Framework-Jan2020-web.pdf.
Gatsby benchmark 4 promotes a cross-curricular approach to learning about careers but it is silent on complementing the work delivered in subject lessons with a discrete provision of careers education. There is real value in linking curriculum learning to careers, in terms both of making pupils aware of the opportunities and progression routes from their subjects and identifying applications in the workplace of the knowledge and skills learned in subject lessons, and not only in the STEM subjects but in all areas of the curriculum. However, this approach alone will not be sufficient to deliver a fully comprehensive programme of careers education. Work should also be planned as separate careers lessons, or more likely as part of a PSHE programme, to deliver the elements of careers education not covered through other lessons and to pull together all the cross-curricular elements in a way that helps pupils understand the links between the different components of the career guidance programme.
It is a vital part of the careers leader’s job to ensure that all pupils have access to careers education in the curriculum.
David Andrews is an independent consultant, a former policy adviser to the CDI and co-author of The Careers Leader Handbook. He has recently published a second edition of his book on Careers Education in Schools.