Career Guidance in Schools

Research with schools and providers of career guidance services in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

by Madeline Nightingale, Eleftheria Iakovidou, Barbara Janta

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Research Questions

  1. What are the types of career guidance services available in secondary schools in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area?
  2. What are the gaps and overlaps in career guidance provision in schools in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area?
  3. How the quality of career guidance provision is defined and measured in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area?

This report, commissioned by Cambridge Ahead, examines the provision of career guidance in schools and colleges in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area. Findings are informed by analyses of primary data collected via an online survey of staff at 54 secondary schools and colleges in the region and interviews with 10 career guidance service providers. Most schools in the region have a careers programme in place, offering a wide range of activities and opportunities. However, schools seem to prioritise academic over technical and vocational career routes, do not sufficiently cover matters related to job demands and working life, and rarely integrate parents into career guidance provision. Some of the schools indicated that they had experienced challenges building relationships with local employers, for instance in relation to arranging work experience for students or engaging employers as mentors. Schools can be overwhelmed by the range of choices in terms of external providers of career guidance services and the complex funding landscape. Schools also face challenges in assessing the quality of services provided by external providers and monitoring the longer-term outcomes and impact of career guidance activities.

Key Findings

  • The majority of surveyed schools have a stable and embedded careers programme in place offering a wide range of activities and opportunities and covering a broad range of topics. However, schools seem to prioritise academic over technical and vocational career routes, and do not sufficiently cover matters related to job demands and working life. Schools rarely integrate parents into career guidance provision.
  • Engagement with local employers is typically integrated into schools' career guidance programmes. However, some of the respondents from surveyed schools indicated that they had experienced challenges building relationships with local employers, for instance in relation to arranging work experience for students or engaging employers as mentors. Around two-thirds of schools wished to expand or develop their career guidance programme to include new or increased opportunities for work placements, experience and shadowing, and a closer relationship or greater collaboration with local employers.
  • All surveyed schools work with at least one external career guidance provider. A number of providers operate in the region and schools can be overwhelmed by the range of choices in career guidance services, with some overlap in the services offered by different providers, combined with a complex funding landscape. A schools' choice of provider(s) is often constrained by time and funding.
  • Interviewed career guidance providers stated that they monitor the quality of their services by proactively seeking feedback from schools. There is, however, a lack of sector-wide measures of quality, one reason for this being insufficient recognition of career advice provision in the Ofsted assessments frameworks. As career guidance services often aim to achieve longer-term outcomes that are only measurable when students have left school, it is also challenging to assess and measure longer-term outcomes and impact.

Recommendations

  • Maintain the guidance for all schools to have a dedicated careers leader whose main responsibility is to deliver high-quality career guidance provision.
  • There is a need for some awareness raising activity to ensure that schools cover both academic and technical education as part of the career guidance programme.
  • Providers and schools should facilitate further engagement opportunities for employers.
  • Encourage the expansion of mentoring opportunities and training relating to job demands and working life across the region by giving guidance and funding opportunities.
  • Providers and schools should engage with parents at times when students are making key career decisions.
  • Centralise and regulate the information available to schools about providers of career guidance, for example by widening the virtual wallet system (or creating a new system) to include a broader range of providers offering a diverse range of activities and open this up to all schools and colleges.
  • Providers should consider their key strengths vis-à-vis other providers, and tailor their offer to capitalise on their strength.
  • The national regulatory body (Ofsted) should develop standard metrics to assess and monitor the quality of career guidance provision. This assessment should constitute an integral part of the Ofsted evaluation of all secondary schools and colleges.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Research findings

  • Chapter Three

    Conclusions and recommendations

  • Chapter Four

    References

  • Chapter Five

    Appendices

Research conducted by

The research was commissioned by Cambridge Ahead and conducted by RAND Europe.

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