Politics

Nicky Morgan joins Careers and Enterprise Company as chair

Former education secretary to help lead organisation she set up whilst at the DfE

Former education secretary to help lead organisation she set up whilst at the DfE

Former education secretary Nicky Morgan will chair the Careers and Enterprise Company, an organisation she set up while in government, it has emerged.

Baroness Morgan, now a Conservative peer, established the organisation in 2014 to boost careers guidance in schools.

It now presides over an extensive network of paid enterprise co-ordinators, trained professionals who work with schools to develop career plans and make connections with businesses, and enterprise advisers, volunteers from the business world who work with individual schools and colleges.

It also oversees the government’s careers hubs, groups of between 20 and 40 secondary schools and colleges which work together to help each other meet the so-called Gatsby benchmarks of good careers education.

Morgan, who has been on the CEC’s board for two years, will replace Christine Hodgson, who had chaired the CEC since its inception, in December.

Company has received £172m of public money

It comes after Schools Week revealed in 2019 that the quango would continue to be reliant on government handouts after an ambition set by Morgan that the company would become self-sustaining was dropped due to its “expanding role”.

At the time, the organisation had received around £92 million from the public purse. Since then, it has received an additional £50 million and is due up to £30.7 million this year, which would take the total public investment to over £172 million.

Morgan said she was “relishing the opportunity this vital role plays in supporting young people”.

“There are strong foundations in place and I am excited to build on the partnerships CEC has established with education and business, which have been so instrumental in our collective support for young people.”

But she said there was “more to do”, adding she wanted “more employers working with schools and colleges, creating meaningful opportunities for young people and also enriching their workforce”.

‘We want careers in the mainstream of school life’

“We want careers in the mainstream of school and college life, where the curriculum helps young people understand the real-world application of their learning as well as the opportunities available beyond the school gates.

“And we want to provide teachers with opportunities to engage with employers to help them understand the sectors, careers and pathways that their subject open up for young people.”

It also follows a change in leadership last year which saw Oli de Botton, the founder and headteacher of School 21 in east London, become the CEC’s chief executive.

He took over from Claudia Harris, a former adviser to Tony Blair, who stepped down in 2020 to run Makers, a form that supports mid-career switchers to train as software engineers.

The CEC also announced today that almost two thirds of all schools are now part of careers hubs, and the “impact of the model is now clear”.

Its research found schools in hubs achieved nearly twice the number of Gatsby benchmarks (5.6) as those not engaged with a hub.

“The more benchmarks a school meets, the more likely young people are to be in a sustained destination post-16,” the company said. “This is particularly true for young people eligible for free school meals.”

Once-critical minister now describes ‘important role’

The CEC has been criticised in the past over a perceived lack of impact despite the investment of large amounts of public money.

In May 2018, Harris and Hodgson were quizzed by MPs on the education select committee about the company’s £2 million research budget, its staffing structure and a lack of evidence that the organisation is making a difference.

The organisation was further criticised in November 2018, when the House of Commons youth select committee urged the government to commission an independent review into whether the CEC is doing a good job helping poorer students get work experience.

And later that month, the company was blasted for spending more than £200,000 on two conferences, with MPs demanding to know why private sponsorship was not sought.

Robert Halfon, the former chair of the education committee and one of the CEC’s most vocal critics, is now the minister responsible for overseeing the organisation.

He said this week it had an “important role in ensuring that young people in schools and colleges receive high quality careers support”.

“It is vital that our young people can make informed choices through good careers advice and can climb the ladder of opportunity.”

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