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After Connexions: how UEL research is helping schools develop tailor-made careers advice

secondary-english-professional-graduate-certificate-in-education-pgce-460x164Researchers from the Cass School of Education and Communities are supporting schools in East London to develop their own tailor-made careers advice programmes for years 7- 9. Dr Charlotte Chadderton, who is leading the study on behalf of the Greater London Authority, explains more.

” Issues around Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance CEIAG tend to receive little attention from media and politicians.  However, evidence shows that good guidance and employer contact help young people to make the right choices regarding education and employment, raise aspirations, motivation and achievement, and reduce the likelihood of them ending up in the NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) category.  A good CEIAG system can offer considerable benefits to schools, young people and their families, and employers.  However, the system of CEIAG in England is currently in crisis:

The Education Act 2011 has handed over responsibility to provide impartial CEIAG to schools, having withdrawn all national funding from Connexions, the external holistic support service whose remit was to provide all kinds of information advice and guidance to young people in England. But schools have not been provided with any extra funds to fulfil this statutory requirement. Research suggests schools are responding with a number of models, including buying in CEIAG from external providers or arranging for an existing member of staff to provide provision.

The study conducted by the research team (Charlotte Chadderton and Casey Edmonds) in East London boroughs suggests: that busy schools do not prioritise CEIAG, that school careers coordinators do not tend to have a qualification in CEIAG, that attention tends to focus on Year 11’s by which time young people have already selected GCSE options, that 1-1 careers guidance is prioritised over broader careers education (awareness of the local labour market and associated opportunities), and that many schools do not provide universal guidance for all young people, focussing more on supporting those young people at risk of becoming NEET and neglecting CEIAG of any kind for middle and higher achievers.

This crisis in CEIAG comes at a time when information advice and guidance for young people is increasing in importance: the current financial downturn has created massive shifts in the national labour market and has led to unprecedentedly high levels of youth unemployment, indeed, young people in the 16-24 age group are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as those aged 25 and over; and qualifications and transition routes are becoming ever more complex. At the same time, urban regeneration is providing improved opportunities in some regions; and the London labour market in particular changes very fast; however, unemployment rates in Newham (15%) and Tower Hamlets (13%) are the highest in London. The importance of CEIAG is compounded in the UK system in which young people are required to make wide-reaching decisions about their future at a comparably young age.

The UEL researchers are developing and testing ways to integrate CEIAG more comprehensively into the pre-GCSE curriculum and working towards a whole-school employability strategy in two East London schools.  The schools are explicitly encouraged to take ownership of the strategy and the outcomes in order to work towards the sustainability of school-based CEIAG once the project is finished.”

‘After Connexions: Secondary Education Transitions without guidance?   Better Careers Education, better outcomes’ (2013-14) is funded by the London Enterprise Panel (Greater London Authority).

The models being tested include the following approaches:

  • the establishment of a CEIAG or student aspirations working group;
  • CPD for school careers coordinators and subject specialists;
  • closer partnerships with local employers;
  • careers learning better integrated into subject curricula;
  • closer partnerships between school careers coordinators and external careers advisors;
  • drop down and enterprise days;
  • the creation of opportunities for children to research sectors of interest to them;
  • employability classes focussing on e.g. career management and CV writing;
  • CEAIG sessions for parents.

Dr Charlotte Chadderton joined UEL as Postdoctoral Research Fellow in October 2010. She researches issues of social justice and inequalities in education, with a particular focus on race equality.

Casey Edmonds is a research assistant in the Cass school of Education. Her first degree is in Psychology and her MSc is in Applied Psychology, both of which she completed at the University of East London.

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