Earlier this year The Careers & Enterprise Company published its report on research into how the Careers Leader role is being delivered in practice. The survey of 750 schools took place in March and April 2019. One of the key findings was that although the time spent by careers leaders on the role is, on average, almost double the amount reported ten years ago, 84% of schools still cited time as the principal barrier to delivering the role effectively.
32 years ago the NACGT (later to become ACEG, one of the legacy bodies that merged with others in 2013 to establish the CDI) published the results of a similar survey. The strapline on the front cover of the report was “no training, not enough time, not enough money”. I’m pleased to say that, at long last, the government has got round to tackling the first of those issues but time and money remain challenges. The perception that the time available is insufficient to do the job echoes across the decades.
So what can schools and careers leaders do about this? Of course it would make a real difference if senior leadership teams could allocate more hours to the role, but we need to be realistic about the financial pressures on schools today. This does not mean that careers leaders should stop presenting the case for such increases in time but there are also ways of making best use of the time currently available.
The first approach is to make sure the time that is allocated to careers leadership in the school is used for leading, managing, co-ordinating and networking, and not taken up with more routine organisation and administrative tasks. Many schools have recognised the benefits of appointing a member of the support staff to the role of careers assistant or careers administrator. Evidence indicates that having someone in such a role for just a few hours a week makes a real difference. And bespoke training is now available for this support role as the CDI offers a two-day course for careers assistants, with the option of accreditation at QCF Level 4.
The second approach is to appoint a member of staff to the role of assistant careers leader. There is certainly enough work to go around. There are a variety of ways of dividing up the tasks of careers leadership between two individuals: for example, by taking responsibility for different key stages, or for different benchmarks. As well as sharing the workload, creating the post of assistant careers leader can have the added bonus of giving you a colleague with whom to share ideas. It also helps with succession planning by providing a degree of continuity should you move on in your own career (but that’s a topic for a future article!).
I suspect there will never be enough time to do everything you want to do but appointing a careers assistant or an assistant careers leader (or ideally both) can help you make best use of the time that is available and begin to build a careers leadership team.
David Andrews is an independent consultant, a former policy adviser to the CDI and co-author of The Careers Leader Handbook