Speak to many careers practitioners working in secondary or further education regarding the challenge of achieving the Gatsby Benchmarks and the conversation will often return to the same topic – namely, the difficulties around hitting Gatsby Benchmark 4, otherwise known as “embedding careers within the curriculum”.
Although the figures from the Careers and Enterprise Company’s recent 2018 State of the Nation report show that GB4 is proving only the fourth-hardest benchmark for schools to hit (with 25.9% of schools currently reporting they are meeting the required standard), the feedback on the ground from careers practitioners can often paint a different picture, particularly in regard to getting the necessary buy-in from teaching and support staff in regard to effectively embedding careers in the curriculum. Careers in the Curriculum can often feel like a tough sell in schools or colleges on top of the numerous existing commitments for staff, so what can we as careers practitioners do to obtain some ‘quick wins’ and even make long-term plans for changing the culture around this benchmark?
Gradually embedding careers-related content across the whole school or college can be a far more effective tactic than simply putting the onus on staff to make sweeping changes straight away, as the latter approach can lead to resentment and a lack of understanding from staff about why they are being asked to do this. There are several ways that careers practitioners can slowly build careers into everyday life at their school or college, including:
- Attaching the careers progression framework (planned careers activities for each year group) to students’ school reports and planner pages each year – this will also pique the interest of parents and carers!
- Providing a crib sheet to each department with a list of useful careers information for teaching staff related to their subject area (particularly valued by teachers in advance of GCSE Options Evening!)
- Asking staff to complete a careers door sign, with information about their previous job roles and skills that they gained from this experience – a great talking point for students!
- Providing careers posters for each department and asking teachers to create a careers display with students for their subject area – this is a great lesson for the start of a new academic year and very low maintenance for staff to facilitate!
- Deliver a briefing on your role as a careers practitioner and the support that you can offer to students and staff, so that everyone has a better idea of your position within the school or college.
Help me help you
Relationships between careers practitioners and school/college staff can often fall down due to a lack of understanding in regard to how useful careers-related activities can be in engaging students within the regular curriculum – with this in mind, it is vital that as Careers Leaders we are extremely visible and that staff can clearly understand the support that we can provide to them!
Within my school, I recently delivered a staff briefing on CEIAG which was followed up with a staff survey regarding careers-related CPD needs – from the results of this survey, it was clear that staff were most interested in learning more about the range of progression routes available for students after leaving school, which has led to the creation of a Careers Crib Sheet for each department, outlining useful careers-related web links relevant to their department, along with general information on all post-16 pathways, including sixth form, college, apprenticeships, traineeships and university. Creating a buzz is also vitally important for getting staff buy-in for the school careers programme – within The Ruth Gorse Academy, we have utilised already engaged curriculum departments like Art and Design, Science and Business Studies to promote the benefits of careers-related activities with other staff from around the school, leading to an increased demand in careers support requests from other departments. By shouting about exciting careers-related activities and showing staff the additional benefits of getting involved (e.g. pre and post-event data on students interested in taking Science further at A-Level following participation in Operating Theatre Live, or students being able to sign off two units for their BTEC Art and Design and BTEC Business Studies portfolios by participating in bespoke mock interviews with employers), we can start to generate demand not only from staff, but also students, who begin to question how their subjects connect to the world of work! Don’t forget to also take advantage of whole-school opportunities to promote careers – National Careers Week and National Apprenticeship Week are obvious examples, but British Science Week, Earth Day, International Women’s Day, Tomorrow’s Engineers Week and National Volunteering Week all offer excellent avenues for bringing careers to the fore!
The new normal
So, as a careers practitioner you are starting to see staff take more of an interest in careers and want to build on this great work to ensure that it doesn’t just disappear – what’s the next step? Now is the time to put more onus on staff! This could be by asking for one member of staff from each department (possibly a trainee teacher or staff member looking for additional responsibility) to act as a Careers Champion, providing a regular link between yourself and the relevant department and taking on the responsibility of maintaining employer/provider contacts and organising careers-related activities and events, or could involve arranging CPD sessions for department heads with local employers and providers, so that opportunities for partnership work can be found within curriculum maps for each academic year. Ideally, you will still not be asking for a huge commitment from staff but rather will be gradually delegating responsibility for careers throughout the school year on year, so that in time the culture of the school or college is one where CEIAG is the new normal and a vital part of everything that they do!
Gatsby Benchmark 4 can often seem like a mountain to climb but by generating a buzz amongst staff with engaging careers-related activities and focusing on the long game over instant gratification, it is far from insurmountable!
A registered career development professional and member of the Career Development Institute (CDI) and Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), Chris has previously worked for education institutions in secondary education, FE and HE as a Careers Leader, Careers Adviser, Functional Skills Tutor and Study Programme Coordinator.