Ofsted to put more emphasis on preparation of pupils for employment

Wilshaw JFS

Schools will be more heavily judged on how they prepare pupils for the world of work after Ofsted warned they were putting the “nation’s future economic prosperity” at risk because of a failure to sufficiently prioritise enterprise education.

Inspectors found that just 10 per cent of schools were getting enterprise education right, and warned that poor coordination between schools and businesses. plus the absence of an ‘overarching government strategy’, were leaving young people unprepared for work.

Ofsted personnel visited 40 schools across England and found just four were demonstrating an “effective approach” to this aspect of the curriculum.

The investigation has prompted a call for better promotion of the Careers and Enterprise Company after Ofsted found businesses were “largely unaware” of it, despite the organisation receiving received most of the government’s £70 million funding for careers education in this parliament.

Ofsted also said its inspectors should ensure their judgments took “greater account of the coherence and rigour with which schools prepare pupils for employment and self-employment”.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the outgoing chief inspector of Ofsted, said it was important that pupils from all backgrounds had access to “an education that prepares them well for the next stage of their lives” and that “the career choices young people make can be informed by the practical experience they gain at school”.

During their investigation, inspectors found the extent to which schools prepared pupils for employment was “largely dependent” on “whether school leaders considered it to be a priority”, and reported that one head described enterprise education as “a luxury we can’t afford”.

Read more: £70m government-funded careers company insists it has ‘achieved a lot’
Read more: £70m government-funded careers company insists it has ‘achieved a lot’

Although other schools saw it as “central to the school’s purpose”, many reported financial and curriculum time pressures were preventing them from prioritising enterprise education.

Inspectors also found that even where schools were delivering enterprise education, it was “often unclear” whether it aided pupils’ knowledge and skills.

Less than a quarter of the inspected schools formally assessed learning in this area and even fewer used external validation, the watchdog said.

It also warned that opportunities for work experience were “limited” at key stage 4, and said business involvement in some schools relied too heavily on the personal networks of teachers and parents, “potentially resulting in disadvantaged pupils missing out”.

A lack of coordination across local areas was also reported, creating an environment for schools and businesses that business leaders described by some as “chaotic”.

Claudia Harris
Claudia Harris

The Careers and Enterprise Company, set up by Nicky Morgan in 2014 and officially launched last June, in order to bring order to the careers advice environment, defended its record and said it continues to increase its profile among business leaders.

Claudia Harris, the company’s chief executive, told Schools Week that the organisation’s presence in schools had grown significantly since Ofsted’s survey took place, and it now had 1,200 enterprise advisers, including at least 400 chief executives and chairs.

“We welcome the report, and we agree with its fundamental findings,” she said. “The survey was done in March this year. At that point our network was in 5 per cent of schools, whereas we are now in a third of schools.

“We were established just over a year ago and we are already working with a lot of business organisations, and we are continuing to build relationships and build our network.”

Kevin Courtney, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the government should recognise work-related learning as a priority and provide funding to “ensure the best possible outcomes for young people”.

“Time and again the responsibility for facilitating such opportunities falls at the feet of schools without the support and resources required to make it successful across the board,” he said.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We welcome Ofsted’s report that rightly acknowledges the good work the Government-backed Careers & Enterprise Company is doing to transform the careers advice and work experience opportunities on offer to young people. Every child deserves an excellent education and schools have a statutory duty to provide high-quality careers advice as part of that.

“We are investing £90million over this Parliament on careers guidance, which includes funding for The Careers & Enterprise Company. We are also investing millions in the National Careers Service to support more young people – between March 2015 and February 2016 around 11,000 13 to 18 year olds were provided with telephone support through its national contact centre.”


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  1. Good that Ofsted will work-related education into account but very disappointing that the wheel needs reinventing. Over thirty years ago the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) did much to raise the profile of work-related education and careers education and guidance (CEG). Schools were organised into small groups in larger area clusters. Each small group was linked to careers officers to take part in TVEI-related inservice-training (TRIST) and share practice. Co-operation, co-ordination and support – that’s what TVEI brought. But TVEI began to wilt when funding ceased and was dealt a death blow (if it hadn’t expired already) by Michael Gove’s disdain for work experience and the careers service. EBacc, league tables, even Progress 8, don’t recognise CEG. Why should schools bother finding an authenticated qualification for work-related education if it doesn’t count towards school performance tables?
    If the Government is serious about developing ‘home grown’ talent then it needs to invest in high-quality work-related education and CEG. Relying on employers popping into schools occasionally won’t do it. But an updated and properly funded TVEI might do so.

    • I wholeheartedly agree. In addition the government removed the statutory duty for Local Authorities to govern Careers Guidance in Schools in 2012. They said the onus should be on schools. What followed was mayhem, staff not being given adequate time to forge effective employer engagement in curriculum or arrange quality work experience placements. Schools were wholly focused on academic pathways and yet with a decrease in funding, the education academic reform making GCSEs and A Level harder thus marginalizing underachievers further, what resulted is a shambolic system especially for those without 5 good GCSEs without employability schools or adequate careers guidance. Further forget the non-existent Saturday job which prepared 15-18 year old for the world of work – try getting a child past the computerised systems which now exist to sift out younger wannabees.
      We are in a system for the the elite and things are about to get worse unless the government wakes up to the fact that local authorities are best placed to apply consistency over all secondary schools in the borough and that funding is put in place for all schools to enable a smooth transition between education and work.

  2. I agree with Janet’s points.

    After all these years of OFSTED we still don’t have a consensus in this country about what education is for. Why is it necessary for OFSTED to change their guidance every single year? They even issue guidance to their inspectors who cannot keep up with the guidance. What was once required is now deemed not acceptable. Teachers seem to be in the army of The Grand Old Duke of York. “When they were only half way up they were neither up nor down.” I guess many teachers are tired of marching up the hill and back down again. Most teachers have no idea where they are on the hill.

  3. Chris Speedy

    I agree with the above comments and would add that the abolition in England of the Careers Service for secondary schools was part of the betrayal by Gove and his ilk of young people from less privileged backgrounds.