The benefits of a link governor for careers: at both strategic and operational levels
The DfE’s Statutory Guidance for schools is addressed specifically to governing bodies, school leaders and school staff. The document makes it clear that the governing body is responsible for ensuring that the school meets its statutory duty to provide pupils with access to independent careers guidance. It goes on to say that the governing body should also provide clear advice and guidance to the headteacher on which to base a strategy for careers which both meets the school’s legal requirements and is in line with the expectations set out in the Gatsby Benchmarks.
The guidance includes a recommendation that every school should have a member of the governing body who takes a strategic interest in careers. This article looks at the role of such a link governor for careers and how careers leaders can make best use of this person to enhance the careers programme.
The role of governors is to provide overall direction, to offer strategic support and challenge to school leaders and to hold the headteacher to account for the quality of education provided. There are clear benefits in having an identified member of the governing body who takes a particular interest in the careers provision and who can be an advocate for careers. At a minimum the link governor should ensure that the school is meeting its statutory duties but the role should extend beyond that to approving and keeping under review the school’s careers policy and helping to monitor delivery. By asking the right questions the link governor can help the careers leader to secure the support of the school leadership.
For this to work effectively the link governor should meet regularly with the careers leader and offer feedback on the school’s policy, strategy and development plan for careers. By drawing on their day-to-day experiences as a parent, as an employer and/or other roles in the community the school serves, the link governor can offer more than simply a lay perspective to such discussions. In this context the role of link governor overlaps with that of the Enterprise Adviser (EA). It would, therefore, make sense to combine meetings with the governor and with the EA on occasions where possible. This would represent an efficient use of time and lead to a more coordinated approach to strategic and operational planning. The governor should then report back to the governing body on how the careers provision is contributing to the school’s priorities and to pupils’ progress, career decision-making and subsequent destinations.
The Statutory Guidance states that not only should every school appoint a careers leader but also that the careers leader should have the clear backing of the governing body to do the job. To support the careers leader, questions the link governor might reasonably ask of the school leadership include:
· Does the school have a strategy and action plan in place to meet the Gatsby Benchmarks?
· What progress has the school made in achieving the Gatsby Benchmarks? What was the outcome of the most recent self-review using the Compass tool?
· Does career guidance feature in the whole school development/improvement plan?
· Has the school appointed a named careers leader?
· Does the careers leader have the full backing of the headteacher and how is this demonstrated?
· Has the careers leader been given sufficient time and resources to undertake the role effectively?
· Has the careers leader been given the opportunity to take up the offer of a free training place for the role?
· When and how does the governing body review pupils’ destinations?
· What evidence is there that all pupils have been given information on opportunities in further and higher education, apprenticeships and other routes into employment?
· Has the school committed to work towards the Quality in Careers standard?
In addition to providing support and challenge at a strategic level by meeting with the careers leader and then asking pertinent and searching questions of the school leadership, the link governor can also provide help and assistance at an operational level. The precise nature of such support will depend in part on their role in the local community, but they could help to identify employers and other contacts to contribute to the careers programme.
Having a link governor for careers can provide an important source of support from within the school to enable you to achieve your ambitions for the careers programme. It will require you to commit time to meeting with the nominated individual, but this investment should help to ensure that the right questions are asked at the governing body meetings. Ideally it would be useful if you could be involved in helping to identify the link governor, so that the school appoints someone with whom you can work effectively.
Further information and support
· The April 2020 edition of the CDI’s magazine Career Matters (Issue 8.2) includes an article written by a school governor with responsibility for careers.
· The CDI provides free online training for link governors. The two one-hour webinars are designed to help governors support leadership teams to review the current careers provision and to develop and implement a strategic plan in line with the DfE’s guidance. https://www.thecdi.net/Full-Webinar-Calendar
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.