Careers: The role of the teacher

It seems I’m often landed with another paper or article discussing how poor careers information, advice and guidance is in schools. I’ve been working in this space for quite some time now and of course, there are plenty of areas which require significant improvement, but there are also plenty of areas of significant success too. So for starters, let’s not disregard that.

From a school-perspective, I think three key issues associated with consistently high quality careers provision are: capacity, capability and kudos.

For any lasting systemic solution to work, there has got to be someone who sits in the middle of the plethora of key stakeholders (professional careers advisers, Ofsted, employers, third sector
organisations, Careers & Enterprise Company etc) – the ‘puppeteer’, the ‘gripper’ – who is well placed to ensure smooth integration, who is well recognised and who is also, critically, directly
able to influence pupils’ skills and decisions. Based on this criteria, and since the duty ultimately lies with schools, I’d argue the role of teacher is therefore essential.

While there are many initiatives in the careers and employability space, there is a lack of focus on the distinct role that teachers can play as well as on the guidance and training required to allow them to take on this role most effectively. We believe Teach First is ideally placed to address this issue, though of course with the important recognition that we can’t (and won’t try to) do it alone.

In 2014, Teach First commissioned the International Centre for Guidance Studies to deliver a report on the role of school teachers in CEIAG. The ‘Careers in the Classroom’ report was our formal response to this research in February 2015 and the birth of our work in this space. I was incredibly excited and honoured to join Teach First a year ago, to lead this work, placing teachers at the heart of every school’s approach to careers and employability via a three-pronged approach (tutorial, teaching and leadership). Excitingly, this work has just been extended to continue over the next two years and looks at those three strands.

Firstly, we have introduced focused training sessions to our ITT programme to ensure all new teachers feel confident, responsible and better-equipped to fulfil the tutorial role – having career conversations with pupils at critical transition points, built on personal experiences, as well as a sound understanding of all post school pathways.

Secondly, we have developed a suite of targeted CPD sessions for classroom teachers to influence curriculum practice and ensure critical links are made between their subject and academic skills, longer-term life decisions and the world of work.

Lastly, we will be continuing to offer the Careers & Employability Leadership Programme (CELP), an 18-month programme of intensive support to enable selected teachers to develop, lead, embed and evaluate a truly whole-school careers and employability strategy. The aim of the programme is to professionalise and raise the profile of the role of a careers leader within a school – the ‘gripper’ I mentioned earlier – and ultimately create a pipeline of senior school leaders committed to championing pupil employability and integrating the wider stakeholders essential in making it most effective.

To finish with a quote from one of the senior leaders I worked with last year:

“Having a whole school approach is really important. It can’t be an add-on – it has to be embedded and an expectation. Careers doesn’t sit in isolation, we believed that it would impact on behaviour, attention to detail and students’ responsibility. We believe that there is a direct impact on classroom teachers. We drove this from the SLT and the impact has been 100% positive.”

The evaluation of the work speaks for itself: “The way in which the programme scaffolded the development of the participants, advocated for them and for CEL within the schools and prepared
the participants to be an agent of change proved to be critical to its success.”

It’s clearly essential we focus on the inside of the school gates solution too, championing and equipping teachers to best play their role. I can’t wait for the continued journey ahead!

Happy World Teachers’ Appreciation Day!

Author: Megan Clatworthy, Employability Manager, Teach First