In this month's blog David Andrews looks at and suggests the next steps for careers leaders
Maintaining the momentum: what next for your careers strategy?
We have reached the end of the second complete school year since the launch of the Careers Strategy. Back in 2018 no-one could have imagined that our schools would be closed to all but the children of essential workers for six months. While the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a necessary change in priorities, as careers leaders have moved swiftly to adapt their programmes and support to remote delivery, progress towards achieving the Gatsby Benchmarks continues. The Careers & Enterprise Company’s State of the Nation reports provide clear evidence of the improvements schools and colleges are making, but there is still a long way to go. We are not going to achieve the DfE’s target of all schools and colleges meeting the Benchmarks by the end of 2020.
This does not constitute a failure: it simply reflects the reality of how long developments take. Any major change in education generally takes a minimum of three years to implement and embed: a year to take stock and plan; another year to put things in place and review; and a third to adapt and tweak in the light of experience. It was, therefore, always an ambitious aspiration to hope that schools could fully meet all eight Benchmarks within two years. A few schools have achieved this position, and many more have made good progress towards the ultimate goal, but we need to maintain the momentum into and beyond next year.
So what should happen from here? Firstly, schools and colleges will continue to need support. The DfE should extend the current strategy for at least a further year and ideally three years. This means keeping all the elements set out in December 2017 and adding further strands, including, I suggest:
· increasing the per capita element of school and college budgets to acknowledge the additional costs of securing access to independent, personal career guidance from a careers adviser qualified to at least level 6
· placing a stronger emphasis on having a discrete provision of careers education in the curriculum, to complement the work planned in subject teaching
· making development funding available to individual schools and colleges (this was a significant helping factor in the Gatsby pilot in the North East)
· ensuring full national coverage of the Careers Hubs, so that all schools and colleges can benefit from being part of a collaborative network.
Secondly, careers leaders in schools and colleges can take action to maintain a focus on the careers programme beyond this year.
1. Now would be a good time to reflect on how far you have come in the past two years. You could review all your Compass results, summarise the overall progress and report the success to the senior leadership and the governors. This would help prepare the ground for further proposals and requests for support for the next phase of development.
2. You could then review the policy, vision and strategic careers plan and make sure that career guidance is fully embedded into the annual review and development planning cycle in the school or college.
3. Now that the assessment criteria for Quality in Careers standard have been fully aligned to the Benchmarks, making a commitment to work towards achieving this external accreditation of your programme would be another action that would keep the focus on improvement.
4. Gatsby Benchmark 1 is all about taking action to make sure that the programme of career guidance is fully embedded in the school or college. And a key part of Benchmark 1 is ensuring that there is strong leadership for careers. An important factor in maintaining the momentum therefore is making sure that the position of careers leader is secure and appropriately located in the school or college management structure to be able to drive developments forward.
5. As you move on to the next stage of implementing your careers strategy it is important to maintain your continuing professional development. The national careers leader training programme has been funded for a further year so, if you have yet to take advantage of one of these free courses, you should consider registering with a training provider through The Careers & Enterprise Company. You should also keep up to date by joining local and online networks and attending conferences and webinars.
Immediate next step
A good starting point would be to schedule a meeting with your senior leadership team line manager with the following agenda:
i. your biggest successes since 2018
ii. the current challenges and barriers you face
iii. the things you want to achieve next
iv. the support that would help you achieve these developments.
Further information and support
The CDI has produced a succinct briefing on the role of careers leader, with advice on matters to take into account when establishing and positioning the role https://www.thecdi.net/write/Careers_Leaders_in_Schools_-_CDI_January_2017.pdf
The CDI is a member of the Quality in Careers Consortium. Information about the standard can be found on its website http://www.qualityincareers.org.uk/
Details of the careers leader training programme can be found at https://www.careersandenterprise.co.uk/schools-colleges/training-careers-leaders. The CDI is a major provider, offering both accredited and non-accredited options, and also offers a wide range of other free CPD opportunities https://www.thecdi.net/Skills-Training-Events
David Andrews is an independent consultant, a former policy adviser to the CDI and co-author of The Careers Leader Handbook.