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David Andrews looks at Identifying students’ guidance needs

In June's blog David looks at Identifying students’ guidance needs: recording achievements; reviewing progress; action planning

In last month’s article I explained the statutory duty on schools to secure access to independent careers guidance and described the various approaches schools take to making such guidance interviews available. In this follow-up article I offer some thoughts on how careers leaders can work with colleagues to identify which students require guidance, at what times.

Few schools will have sufficient resources to enable all students to have an in-depth career guidance interview with a level 6 qualified careers adviser, and it is questionable anyway whether such an undifferentiated, blanket approach represents the best use of resources.

What is needed is a process of keeping under review each and every student’s progress with their career planning and using this intelligence to identify who needs access to independent career guidance, and when. Going back to the era of Connexions, and even before that to the (re-)focussing agenda under the privatised careers services, schools developed good systems for working with the external service to identify students’ guidance needs and where to target the support available.

Key to these processes is to view the provision of independent careers guidance from a professionally-qualified careers adviser as one element of a wider provision of guidance and support for students. There are many different one-to-one conversations that happen between students and staff that are not labelled ‘guidance’ but are in fact part of the school’s overall provision of guidance and support. Examples include: academic monitoring; progress reviews; target-setting; tutor reviews; option choice; action planning; mentoring. These are all variations on a common theme of “how’s it going, what next?” The particular focus of the discussion and the timescale will be different, but the overall purpose will remain the same – to help students reflect on where they are and to plan ahead.

If tutors and mentors were to record brief notes of these discussions, careers leaders could then draw on the records to review students’ progress with their career plans and this would inform decisions about referrals to the careers adviser for guidance.

Gatsby Benchmark 3, ‘Addressing the needs of each student’, is in fact a theme that should run across all the other benchmarks. In relation to Benchmark 8, ‘Personal guidance’, it means knowing where each student is in terms of their plans for the next stage and making sure they are given access to appropriate support. This requires the careers leader to work with those staff colleagues who manage the school’s provision of tutoring and mentoring, to develop manageable mechanisms for using the outcomes of tutor and mentor discussions to inform the targeting of career guidance support.

This will not be the only mechanism for informing referrals to the careers adviser. The careers leader will still need to work with the SENCO to make sure priority is given to young people with SEND, and with pastoral managers to identify other vulnerable young people, including those at risk of becoming NEET. Furthermore, there should also be the facility for students to self-refer. But a coherent and coordinated approach to tutoring, mentoring and guidance should ensure that all guidance needs are identified and no-one slips through the net.

Where this is working well students should view each of the conversations as part of a coordinated process of guidance and support, rather than a number of separate, isolated and potentially duplicated interventions. Underpinning this will be a simple but comprehensive system for record-keeping.

Further information and support

· one on the tools we produced to accompany The Careers Leader Handbook was designed to help careers leaders to review all the one-to-one conversations that are organised for students, and all the documents that are used to record those conversations, with the aim of bringing greater coherence to the provision of personal guidance and to the referral process https://indigo.careers/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/2.8A.pdf

· there are several recording systems that schools and colleges can use. The Careers & Enterprise Company is rolling out its free Compass+ tool, which includes a facility to track individual students’ progress and see who needs support https://www.careersandenterprise.co.uk/schools-colleges/compass-plus Other, commercial products are available, such as Grofar, Start, Unifrog, etc.

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.

June 2020

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