Summertime, and the planning’s not easy…

By Karleen Dowden

Wednesday 16 July 2014

As the academic year comes to an end for many this week, teachers all around England will be feeling an overwhelming sense of relief and looking forward to a much needed and well-deserved period of rest and relaxation.

Those outside the teaching profession will look on in envy, mocking teachers for ‘all the holidays they get’ – but anyone in teaching knows that what looks like a very enviable position to be in, come the penultimate week in July, is not actually what it seems. No sooner has the bell rung on the last day of term, than the preparation must begin for the following term, and the tensions and anxieties of what A level and GCSE results days will bring begin to mount. Put into the mix the numerous new educational policies that need to be planned for and implemented by September, and the long summer break begins to lose its appeal.

Amongst the changes in September we will see the RPA extended to require all young people in England to stay in education or training until they are 18, and destination measures will be taken more into account by Ofsted during inspections, increasing the need for schools to deliver effective careers education and guidance.

It is not uncommon for a school’s careers education and guidance programme to be the last thing planned, staffed and scheduled, often relying on what free periods are left once everything else is timetabled. Arguably not a very strategic approach! An external observer may ask why this is the case and think, wrongly, that schools do not care what happens to their students when they depart for the big wide world. The reality is very different. Quite simply, some schools struggle to make careers a priority amid the myriad of other areas they are required to focus on. Sadly it is often the things that are most crudely measured that are given prominence.

Despite the challenges surrounding delivering effective careers education and guidance, there are many schools who are committed to careers education, one of which is Fareham Academy in Hampshire where Principal Nadine Powrie believes ‘students value careers education because it supports them in making informed decisions about their future’, thus making it a priority for the academy. Fareham reaches out to students as young as Year 7, providing careers information through detailed schemes of work in each department that are embedded into lesson plans. Teaching staff encourage students to talk about the ‘big picture’ and how each lesson will add to their employability skills. The strength of the careers information and guidance has helped to give the academy an outstanding track record with 100 per cent of their students leaving for full-time education, employment or training.

So, back to planning… I was very pleased to be part of a team from ASCL, NFER, The 157 Group and ATL who came together earlier this year to produce a Brief for senior leaders that gives a clear, practical steer to schools and colleges on developing their careers education and information, advice and guidance (CEIAG).

Recognising the uncertainty and confusion around what effective CEIAG really means, in devising the careers Brief, our four organisations have aimed to outline the principles of effective CEIAG; the outcomes of effective careers guidance; an audit for planning and progressing priorities and suggested ways to evaluate provision. If it helps you, let us know. If it doesn’t – well, tell us that too!

In my experience it’s best to get the planning and preparation for next academic year done early in the first couple of weeks of the holidays, after which time you can enjoy the rest of your well-earned break, preferably in the sunshine with a nice glass of wine. Enjoy!

Karleen Dowden is a Apprenticeship, Employability and IAG Specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), and a former teacher.