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North East Ambition: Setting the careers standard across the UK

The State of the Nation 2017: Careers and Enterprise Provision in England’s Schools report published by the Careers & Enterprise Company is a great reminder of the role the North East has played in shaping careers education across the UK.

Here the North East LEP’s national facilitator for the Career Benchmarks Pilot, Ryan Gibson, talks through achievements to date and how the North East LEP has played such a central role in helping to shape this national agenda.

In September 2015, sixteen schools and colleges within the North East LEP area became the first in the UK to pilot a new careers guidance scheme, designed to equip the next generation with the skills employers need.

Launched at the LEP’s offices, The Career Benchmarks Pilot was a bold move, but one we were confident in. The programme saw the introduction of eight benchmarks for good careers guidance, with the ambition of increasing the ambitions of pupils, closing the skills gap and improving social mobility.

The Benchmarks were a huge success and a year later rolled out more widely by the Gatsby Foundation, which initiated and funded the scheme. Today’s State of the Nation 2017: Careers
and Enterprise Provision in England’s Schools report looks at how well schools have performed nationwide in 2016/17, drawing on data drawn from a self-evaluation tool for schools called Compass, a tool we played a central role in developing.

Here in the North East, we’ve a lot to shout about. At the pilot’s start, no school in the UK was achieving more than five benchmarks and 50% of schools and colleges in this region weren’t achieving any at all. Now 88% of our schools and colleges are achieving between six to eight, with every single one achieving a minimum of four.

Our schools and colleges have made rapid progress in a short period of time and have attracted international interest.

Engagement the key to success

One of the reasons the Benchmarks have been so transformational in the North East, is the high level of engagement in careers that exists here.

Take the launch of North East Ambition, which in July brought together
300 head teachers, senior leaders, careers leaders, governors and business leaders. Those present committed to supporting North East schools and colleges in adopting, implementing and achieving the Good Career Guidance benchmarks.

As part of this, 96 career leaders signed up to attend the first Regional Careers Leader Network Meeting, supported by all seven Local Authorities.

Over 120 senior business leaders have signed up to be Enterprise Advisers – working strategically with the leadership teams of individual schools and colleges, forming mutually beneficial partnerships.

We are seeing careers education locally totally transform thanks to this stakeholder buy in and strong relationships between academia and the business community.

Pioneering and sharing best practice

As the North East’s reputation for pioneering the way in education grows, so does interest in our work.

We now regularly share best practice nationally and internationally, hosting visits by individual schools, multi-academy trusts, local authorities and international foundations.

This work has produced over 100 case studies of good practice, which will be available in physical and digital form across the country in the next few months, showcasing innovative approaches to overcoming traditional issues.

North East LEP representatives are speaking at The National Careers Education Summit, World Skills UK, Royal Society’s Diversity Conference, National Careers Show, CDI National Conference and the UCAS National Conference all in the next two months.

18 leading professionals from schools and colleges in the North East LEP region have been selected to be national advocates for the career benchmarks – reflecting their outstanding practice.

Just last year I was awarded UK Career Educator of the Year by the Careers Development Institute in recognition of our leading role in this field, something I am immensely proud of.

Under North East Ambition, we have developed a range of resources to support schools and colleges in the region. These include:

  • Regional Careers Leader Network
  • Enterprise Adviser Network
  • LMI videos and supporting toolkit
  • Working Groups
  • Opportunities Bulletin
  • Career Benchmarks Audit / Action Plan Tool
  • Directory of Provision

We will continue to work closely with the Department of Education to influence and support the development of a new national careers strategy. Here, the career benchmarks have been integrated within our Strategic Economic Plan for the region, which is unique across the country, but we hope to encourage others to follow suit. The approach is equally crucial to implementing our social mobility strategy, something our Skills Director, Michelle Rainbow, is passionate about – she thrives to develop an area where we work with each and every young person and where no one is left behind.

Today’s report underlines how critical strong careers and enterprise provision is to opening up careers choices to young people and to helping our economy flourish. We look forward to continuing to play such a central part in this agenda, firmly putting the north East on the map as an exemplar in career guidance.