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No limits: helping primary pupils fulfil their potential

A year on from the start of a new project to improve careers guidance for primary pupils, Matt Joyce, Regional Lead – North East Ambition, at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, takes a look at what’s been achieved so far.

There’s increasing evidence to show that children begin to form ideas about their futures when they’re as young as five or six. And by the age of 10, many young people have already made career limiting decisions, which are fixed by the time they’re 14.

That’s why, in 2019, we began working with 70 primary schools in the North East to pilot a new approach to careers education for younger school children.

The Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot project builds on what we learnt when the North East was the pilot region for implementing the Gatsby Good Careers Guidance Benchmarks – which lay out requirements for different elements of careers guidance, from encounters with employers, to engagement with further and higher education providers – in secondary schools and colleges. The project has had a remarkable impact on the quality of careers guidance young people receive and we knew there was the potential to adapt the framework to meet the needs of younger children as well.

In September 2019 we began work on the primary pilot, testing the new framework with primary schools spanning a range of geographies and settings. Each school carried out an initial audit of their careers provision and we worked with Careers Leaders to identify gaps in provision and to create an action plan for each school.

So, has the project had the impact we hoped for? It’s been more than a year since we set out on this journey and we’re now in a position to look at what’s been achieved so far and whether it is helping primary-age children to learn about the full range of possibilities open to them in the future.

The interim evaluation which we commissioned has shown evidence of a positive impact on pupils already, with some massive improvements in young people’s ability to talk about and understand their career options being reported. 81% of the schools surveyed said that pupils better understand the links between what they are studying and future career options, and 89% that pupils are able to talk more about their career plans.

There’s been a jump in primary Careers Leaders’ confidence as well, with 88% saying they now rate their knowledge, skills and understanding as good or very good, compared with 10% when we started.

The evaluation also shows significant progress is being made against the Good Careers Guidance Benchmarks, and 82% of survey respondents say careers-related learning is now part of their school’s general curriculum, and no longer a standalone activity or an extra-curricular specialism. Activity also ranges across the key stages, while remaining age-appropriate.

These improvements are shown across the board, in schools with a range of Ofsted ratings and with diverse cohorts of pupils. And the work within primary schools links directly with the Benchmarks framework which is in place in secondary and further education, easing young people’s transition from primary school and giving them a better baseline of understanding and experiences when they start secondary school.

Going forward we’ll be implementing the various recommendations that came out of the evaluation and I hope that, once the pilot finishes in just under a year’s time, we’ll be able to expand our work to help more primary schools improve their careers guidance.

There’s currently no statutory requirement for primary schools to provide careers guidance but we know it’s vital if young people are to be given the best possible start in life. The engagement we’ve seen from the 70 schools involved in the pilot has been amazing and shows that they see the importance of this work as well. I hope that, together, we can help more children reach their full potential.

Read the Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot evaluation report on the North East Data Hub here.

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East Durham College launches Careers Leadership Committee

East Durham College operates across three campuses and serves a wide and varied group of students studying both academic and vocational courses at various different levels, including GCSE, BTEC, NVQ, A Level and Higher Education.

Because of this, East Durham College was keen to explore a new approach to careers education, one that met the needs of each and every student.

In recognition of its unique offer, the College chose to establish a Careers Leadership Committee that could work effectively across all three of the college’s sites and better represent its students by offering a diverse range of views and experience.

To support its work establishing a Careers Leadership Committee, East Durham College used its learning as part of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Gatsby Good Career Benchmarks pilot to map out how each department engaged with careers. The exercise showed some excellent careers education provision within its curriculum areas and some in need of improvement.

Based on this research, and following recommendations from The Careers & Enterprises Company, East Durham College established a Careers Leadership Committee that comprises a Board member, two members of the College Leadership Group, the Vice Principal Curriculum and Performance and:

  • Director of Student Experience, Engagement and Wellbeing
  • Director of Inclusive Learning
  • Programme Leader for Progression Coaches
  • Curriculum Manager 14-16
  • Curriculum Directors from across all campuses
  • Careers Co-ordinator
  • NECOP Co-ordinator (FutureMe)
  • Quality Co-ordinator

Since forming, the Careers Leadership Committee has helped ensure careers education is at the heart of East Durham College. It is now a regular agenda item at all Curriculum meetings where it is planned, reviewed and assessed as part of each Curriculum Area’s SAR & QIP.

The Student Service department has increased its careers advice provision and more cross-college events are taking place to support students and parents.

The Careers Leadership Committee has also begun to record and capture careers activity across the college’s three campuses to identify which teams are performing well, and which teams may need some additional support.

The only costs associated with the new Careers Leadership Committee is staff time, meaning it is a sustainable and long-term way of delivering effective and impactful careers guidance that will benefit all students at the College.

East Durham College is one of 11 colleges and sixth form centres involved in the only national College Careers Hub in the country. Careers Hubs are a central part of the Government’s Careers Strategy, which aims to improve careers education and help prepare young people for the world of work.

The College Careers Hub pilot is facilitated by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

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North East Ambition – LEP leads way with two new Careers Hubs for the region

In line with the Secretary of State for Education’s announcement today [Monday 20 May 2019] that a model designed to transform careers education has been given a £2.5m boost, two new Careers Hubs – one for Schools and another focused on Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) – are coming to the region.

Secured and hosted by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the move recognises the success of two Hubs established here when the first wave were introduced across England in July 2018.

A Careers Hub already successfully services 40 secondary schools, while a regional College Hub, the only one in England, services nine FE colleges and one sixth form college.

The aim of the new School Hub is to extend the work already started in the Careers Hub and support a wider range of schools to achieve the benchmarks, while the SEND Hub is being introduced to pilot how the implementation of the Gatsby benchmarks can be made relevant and effective for special needs learners.

The move means that the North East LEP can work intensively with 91 schools and colleges across its catchment area.

Underpinning the Hubs are eight Gatsby Career Benchmarks, which the North East piloted, and provide a clearly defined framework for ‘Good Career Guidance.’

Each one supports the North East LEP’s Skills initiative, North East Ambition, which aims to ensure each and every student in the region has access to high quality careers education and all secondary schools and colleges in the North East are achieving the Benchmarks by 2024.

Schools and colleges enrolled in the Hubs work with universities, training providers, employers and career professionals to improve careers information. They can access a Central Hub Fund, equivalent to around £1k per school or college, with additional support available, including access to training for career leaders and enhanced employer encounters.

Andrew Hodgson, chair of the North East LEP, said: “The North East LEP passionately believes in opportunity for everyone and it is a hugely positive step that we are able to support the Government’s national Careers Strategy through the introduction of these two new Hubs.

“Ensuring a pipeline of skilled talent is available to business and that local jobs are available to keep talent in the region is crucial if the LEP is to achieve its objective of creating 100,000 more and better jobs for the North East by 2024.

“The fact that this will improve the prospects of young people in another 50 schools in our region shows how successful our Skills programme has been to date and places us well on to the road to an even stronger future economy.”

The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, Secretary of State for Education, said: “It is so important that young people get to know about a range of different jobs and careers so they can see the possible opportunities out there. Good careers education is such a valuable asset that helps children to explore future possibilities and go on to lead happy rewarding lives.

“Careers Hubs bring together schools, colleges, universities and employers to share their expertise and improve the careers education on offer to make sure young people have the information they need to make the most of their talents.

“Today’s investment will give thousands more young people access to expert careers support as they take those first exciting steps into their future.”

For more information about how the North East LEP is improving skills in the region, visit www.nelep.co.uk/skills.

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Bringing the North East energy sector into the classroom

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has worked with local employers and Berwick Academy in Northumberland to give year 9 pupils at the school a flavour of the different types of careers which exist within the North East’s thriving energy sector.

Explaining why the event took place, Neil Willis, Regional Lead: Education Challenge at the North East LEP, said: “Berwick is an amazing part of the country. It’s a beautiful rural, coastal area, but that means that it’s sometimes difficult for students to have those meaningful encounters with employers. Within a short distance of here there are many opportunities within the energy sector, which is one of our growth sectors.”

Businesses including EDF Energy and Northern Gas Networks attended the event to help students learn about some of the opportunities in the North East energy sector, through hands-on activities and workshops.

One of the students who attended the event said: “I didn’t know that engineering wasn’t just building bridges and designing buildings It’s actually got loads of different applications like design, production, scheduling and all the different jobs that I wouldn’t have assumed you could get within that sector.”

Watch our two minute video to hear from staff and pupils at the school and find out more about the event.

This event was part of the North East LEP’s Education Challenge programme, which aims to reduce the gap between the North East’s best and lowest performing schools and to integrate an understanding of the world of work and career opportunities into the curriculum.

Find out more about the North East LEP’s Skills programmes.

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In conversation with Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, about the launch of the Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot

What age were you when you started to think about what you might do as a career? 15? 18? Possibly even older?

Would it surprise you to know that children have their first career aspirations aged two to four years? By age five and six, children are already beginning to narrow their choices based on their gender, and by age ten many young people have already made career limiting decisions, which are fixed by age 14.

It’s for these reasons and more, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, working with EY Foundation, is launching the Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot – a brand new initiative to build careers aspiration and inspiration from an early age.

We know, first hand, the transformational impact good careers education can have on young people. The North East LEP led the Good Career Guidance Benchmark Pilot in partnership with 16 secondary schools and colleges from across the region, which led to government launching new statutory guidance for schools on how to deliver careers education, with the Gatsby Career Benchmarks at its very heart.

Through the Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot, we want to translate the Benchmarks so they meet the needs of primary schools, and then test them in action. Do they improve student outcomes, do they support primary schools in delivering high-quality careers education for all students, and can the approach be replicated in other areas of England?

We’ll be working with 70 primary schools from across the North East LEP region as part of the two academic-year pilot. Each school will have the support of a Facilitator, to help them implement and achieve the benchmarks, an Action Researcher to capture the impact, and be part of a community of Primary Careers Leaders, helping to deliver a shared vision for achieving the primary benchmarks.

Our partnership with EY Foundation and the team’s enthusiasm, expertise and financial support has been fundamental in making this happen. From the very early conversations, it was evident that EY Foundation understood what we were trying to do and why this pilot has so much potential to improve social mobility. It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with the team and the Foundation’s Trustees, and we are so excited to kick start the activities within the 70 schools across the North East.

As an independent charity, EY Foundation helps young people overcome barriers to gaining fulfilling employment. One way they do this is by building close relationships with hundreds of employers, who provide young people with skills training and opportunities to find out more about the workplace.

The Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot forms part of North East Ambition, which is our commitment to improve social mobility by supporting each and every young person to make informed decisions about their future careers. We can do that by ensuring young people have meaningful encounters with a broad range of employers and understand the link between the subjects they study in school and the career opportunities available to them. It may sound simple, but it’s a huge culture change for many schools. We need to ensure careers education is viewed as important as curriculum-based learning, and that it’s embedded across the entire school.

Improving skills and social mobility is central to the North East LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan to boost our economy and create more and better jobs for people living and working in the North East. We want young people to be aware of the opportunities available to them and aspire to achieve their full potential, whatever their circumstances.

Regular updates about the Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot will be made available on nelep.co.uk and northeastambition.co.uk. You can also contact us with any questions via [email protected].

By Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership

The Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot is supported by funding from the European Social Fund, EY Foundation and the Local Growth Fund.

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Careers guidance in primary schools – can we raise our children’s aspirations?

Following a successful pilot programme to improve standards of careers education in all North East secondary schools, the North East LEP is expanding its work to focus on primary pupils, helping to broaden their horizons and raise their aspirations.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, explains more.

We know that even at the young age of three or four, children are already starting to form their first aspirations. By six they are starting to have opinions on what they think they can or can’t do in the future. And by the time they’re 10, young people start to make decisions which could go on to limit their future options.

This is why we are embarking on a programme of work in partnership with North East primary schools to strengthen careers guidance for pupils and help open their eyes to the range of possibilities their futures hold.

Back in 2015, the North East became the first UK region to pilot the implementation of the Gatsby Good Career Benchmarks in our secondary schools. We began by working with 16 schools and colleges before rolling out the programme to the entire region, and now we are expanding this work to encompass our primary schools as well.

The work we will be doing in partnership with schools across the North East will help us to make sure that all children, from primary age upwards, have the best possible guidance to help them understand the exciting opportunities that are open to them as they grow up.

It’s not about children choosing their future jobs at this very young age. It’s about helping our children and young people to have ambitions and aspirations for themselves, helping them to learn about the variety of jobs open to them and the fantastic range of opportunities we have in the region, and to gain a broad understanding of the routes to get into work including apprenticeships and further and higher education

From early 2019 we will be working with around 70 primary schools to pilot the use of the Career Guidance Benchmarks in a primary setting.   The benchmarks have proven to have a transformational impact on careers guidance for slightly older students, forming a framework which enables schools to strengthen links with local businesses and provide top quality careers guidance for each and every pupil. Following our secondary schools pilot and the subsequent wider roll-out, the Government adopted the benchmarks as part of the national Careers Strategy and the North East is now playing a key role in supporting schools across the country to adopt the benchmarks.

For the primary pilot, we will be partnering with schools in different locations, of different sizes and with varying OFSTED ratings so we can really test how best to apply the framework to primaries.

We know that many primary schools are already doing great work in the area of careers guidance and one of the aims of this programme will be to build a community of best practice and facilitate the sharing of challenges and solutions.

Similarly, we will build on the work of the many employers currently supporting teachers and leadership teams in primary schools to bring careers to life for pupils.

We’ve had a fantastic response from schools wanting to be involved in the pilot and there is still time for more schools to get involved. We’d love to hear from any who are interested in working with us to raise the aspirations of the next generation.

The North East Primary Benchmark pilot is part of the North East LEP’s North East Ambition – a programme which aims to improve career guidance and advice from primary school upwards in the North East.

If you have any further questions about this article, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.