Your school’s careers provision: what are Ofsted inspectors looking for?

reception areaLast month Ofsted published the consultation draft for inspections taking place under the Common Inspection Framework from September 2019. Some of these areas relate to careers education, advice and guidance and while there is no actual checklist, inspectors will be looking for a number of things when they visit schools in relation to this.

Gatsby Benchmarks
Inspectors are fully aware of the Gatsby Benchmarks and will be looking for evidence of how well schools are performing against them – the easier schools can demonstrate this the better. In line with DfE statutory guidance they’ll be looking for a visible, easily accessible careers policy and programme and evidence of an action plan based on the Compass Tool assessment is desirable.

Signposting to careers information
With Inspectors checking school and college websites in advance of a visit, we recommend schools create a ‘careers hub’ which is easy to find. This should include as a minimum your careers policy and programme and name of your Careers Leader as well as signposting to a range of quality and relevant careers and labour market information aimed at students and parents that staff are aware of (Benchmark 2).

Addressing the needs of all learners
Once on site, as well as checking that there is an effective careers leader with coordinating responsibilities in place, inspectors will want to see evidence of commitment from management and leadership to a consistent and effective careers programme which encompasses all learners, not just those applying to university (Benchmark 1). Ofsted is particularly interested in the careers guidance offered to level 3 students not wanting to go to university and will be checking and reporting on whether schools are opening their doors to FE providers to let them talk to pre-16 students about technical education and apprenticeships (Benchmark 7). This is the Baker Clause, a statutory duty on schools which many are currently falling behind on. One of the ways this will be checked is by talking to students and asking if they know about vocational routes and checking that encounters with vocational, FE and HE providers are scheduled in.

Quality careers guidance
The ‘outstanding’ grade descriptor for the personal development section of the Framework highlights that schools should provide “high quality, impartial guidance that helps pupils make informed choices about which courses suit their academic needs and aspirations” (Benchmark 8). By ‘high quality’ we are talking about a careers adviser working in school having, or working towards, a level 6 qualification in guidance. A recent Ofsted webinar also stated that it expects guidance to be available as and when students need it – we know this is easier said than done!

In addition to guidance, Ofsted will be looking at how students learn career management skills in school – that they “build on their prior attainment and are enabled to develop clear, ambitious and realistic plans for their future”. Schools should also consider how students are informed of available opportunities and local and national skills needs (Benchmarks 2 and 5).

What else?
Other ways in which Ofsted will check against the Framework include: talking to pupils; looking at destination data; looking at student action plans and ensuring that these are reviewed; conducting a parent survey and post-16 employer survey; proof that stereotypical thinking is challenged; and looking for evidence of how the careers programme is communicated to staff and that CEIAG is evident within all curriculum areas (Benchmark 4). They will also be looking at work experience programmes and whether a school is undertaking a Quality in Careers Standard award.

Key messages
The absence of a formal checklist leaves it up to the school to flesh out what Inspectors are looking for but from listening directly to what some of them are saying we are starting to get the gist of what can be expected. The key messages overreaching the specific requirements set out in the Gatsby Benchmarks seem to be ensuring impartiality, quality over quantity and making sure that the individual needs of each student are addressed.