Its a given that we live in austere times, and that we have to make what we have work better for us. When it comes to careers guidance and development you will find no stakeholders , and I mean’ no’, who think that the policy is currently  either joined up or cost effective.   Some adults are not too badly catered for, but for young people, and particularly the disadvantaged,  the support is patchy and fragmented,  and a post code lottery. Funds in the system could and should be better utilized and invested to secure the outcomes the government wants for  its  education, social, economic  and employment agendas.   But it urgently needs some overarching strategic management that cuts across departments and  makes better use of the various funding streams already there, to ensure all ages have easy  access to good  career guidance and  development.

One of the leading UK based  experts  on Careers development is Professor Tristram Hooley, of the University of Derby. What does he think are the challenges that confront the Cameron government on Careers?

  • Making the new careers company a reality
  • Co-ordinating between different departments.
  • Developing the National Careers Service.
  • Dealing with the potential fall out of cuts to school budgets and wider public spending
  • The need for a public career development” initiative.

We live in an era where what works matters ,more than it ever has, and evidence is supposed to inform both policy and practice. So what does Professor Hooley say about  what  the evidence tells us about career development ?


Career development should focus on the individual across  the life course  

Career development should support learning and progression

There is a need to ensure quality and efficacy of career development    

Source: The Future of Careers Guidance in UK-19 May 2015  Presentation to Inside Government  Event -T Hooley


What is expected of the new Education Secretary.? The short answer is that she will be expected to ensure that the performance of our system, and  the schools and students  within our system, improves against established , measurable outcomes  . The drive will be, as ever ,to improve the performance of all our students, but, particularly,  the most disadvantaged and to ensure that the gap between them and their peers narrows significantly.  We have the outcome measures and  measurable deliverables in place.

But, as  Sian Townson,  a writer, scientist and academic, at the University of Edinburgh reminds us (in the Daily  Telegraph 19 May )  ‘science tells us that when you focus on the outcome measures, the process is affected: people start to train for the measures directly, rather than the measures being indicative of correct training. These measures are not conducive to education.’ (see notes below)

When she  is talking about education, she means a rounded education, one that nurtures ‘creative ‘ and ‘ imaginative thinking’. Children are drilled in stuff that can easily be assessed but ‘that is not how you inspire or educate’ young people . This criticism is hardly new. Many commentators have suggested that we force our teachers to teach for the test,  that there is not enough time set aside  for truly educating the child , too much time is spent  on assessed academic subjects,   so schools are little more than  exam factories ;  and we only value what we can easily measure,   and so on.

There is a problem, Townson says, because of the ‘prevailing motivational climate’. The argument is that with all these measurable outcomes, ranking and league tables there really isn’t enough autonomy (we have controlled autonomy) to allow schools to really  educate, in the true sense of the word ,our children.   In short, schools really aren’t that autonomous. (True)

Here is how Townson expresses the kernel of the problem -which is essentially, to her, about the wrong controlling environment:

‘Within developmental and education research there is a pillar called self- determination theory. It states that in order to fulfil our basic needs we need to create the right sort of environment. The desirable environment is autonomy-supportive (non-controlling), defined by having provision of choice, rationales for imposed structures, recognition of participant’s feelings and perspectives, frequent opportunities to display initiative, useful feedback, no overt control and criticism, an appropriate reward system and the avoidance of ego-involvement such as rankings.

When supervised externally, and hence assessed and ranked by outcome measures, our schools meet the opposite criteria – that of a controlling environment for both the teachers and the pupils.

This is the environment that studies have shown to cause stress, poor performance and burnout, again not just for the teachers but for the very pupils that we’re meant to improve.

Increased autonomy has been attempted with private schools, faith schools and academies, but they haven’t escaped the league-table battles and so haven’t avoided the controlling motivational climate. A central education policy is needed, one that has the courage to sidestep the rankings. Here in the UK we have world-class potential not just in education but in educational research and theory. It’s time to practise what we preach.’

So, what are the chances of the accountability framework or ‘controlling motivational environment’ changing any time soon?  Not great. Maybe a bit on the margins, at a push. But if  we are serious about improving the education offer, of helping to develop character and  support the development of non-cognitive skills in our children (for which there is a clear demand  both at universities and in the work place), we really have to think a little  harder about how we  build the right enabling environment, and  ensure that there are   incentives in the system ,to deliver the outcomes we want. .



Note- Campbells and Goodharts Laws

Campbell’s law is an adage developed by Donald T. Campbell(1976)

“The more any quantitative social indicator (or even some qualitative indicator) is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”

Goodhart’s law is named after the banker who originated it, Charles Goodhart. Its most popular formulation is: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”  Or ‘Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes.’

(Goodhart’s original 1975 formulation)



The 2014 Triennial Review of the British Council  (BC) found:

‘Conflicts of interest inherent in the present arrangements lead other UK providers of similar products and services to believe that the British Council represents unfair competition. It also finds that there are some grounds for concern that the organisation could be limiting potential opportunities for other UK providers in a growing market where the UK has significant natural advantages. In this regard some transfer of responsibility to UKTI might be appropriate’

So, after years of robust  denials that it had any negative impact on other education suppliers . or the  education market more generally, the BC had been found out.

For many years big hitting education exporters   have  complained to successive governments that the British Council was using its privileged, monopolistic position to benefit itself rather than other British based providers, which amounted to a conflict of interest. They argued, rather compellingly, that you can’t promote other  UK education providers,  abroad(a key role of the BC) while concurrently competing with them, and taking most of the big contracts , from under their noses. The BC is supposed to help the export efforts of UK plc  which is why presumably  it is   still subsidized by the UK taxpayer.   But it competes head on with  unsubsidized UK companies for big ticket contracts. Often co-located  with British embassies  it has    privileged access to  local contacts  and  local market- sensitive information, care of local diplomats.   You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to work out that this is a clear conflict of interest. It also  acts as a barrier to market entry for companies   who see the dominance of the BC, hear of the way it operates in the market  and decide its  far too risky to get involved  . Small operators  often simply get nudged aside or are  undermined by the BC.   This in turn undermines our education export success.

Education Investor now reports  that Derrick Betts, vice president at consultancy firm Parthenon-EY, is to take an externship at UKTI Education commencing in January 2016.

In November 2014, Education Investor reported that audit firm Ernst & Young (EY), Parthenon’s parent company, had been hired to advise on the restructuring of the British Council. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has asked EY to consider three new operating models for the BC , one of which would involve transferring some of its responsibilities to UKTI Education. (see above)

Some might be worried that there is a conflict of interests here, too . But it could simply be a move that anticipates the results of the Review ie that there will be  some  transfer of responsibility to UKTI.  Matthew Robb, managing director at Parthenon-EY, told Education Investor that: “Derrick is a super hardworking guy with great expertise, particularly in private schools.” UKTI declined to comment on Mr Bett’s appointment.

We shall have to see what happens. But its worth mentioning that the BC has been very good in the past  , with FCO support, of course , at protecting what it sees as its interests, (which is not necessarily the same as  that  of  UK  taxpayers or suppliers)  and it will be lobbying behind the scenes to do just that. Whatever the outcome of the Review ,remember the plight of the small operators . UKTI is interested in the big  ticket contracts,  and big operators , the smaller ones  will probably still  have to   plough a lonely furrow, under the predatory shadow of the BC.

The Triennial Review





New government -all change in education. Well, not really. Of course, some things will change. Whoever heard of an education secretary taking office  saying that “my agenda is to do nothing for a while and oversee a period of  consolidation,  bedding in  previous  policies.” Dream on.   But there is a continuum operating.   Believe it or not , there is much more that unites political parties in education than divides them .  So, there are certain issues that we know will  continue on the education agenda. and would have continued , regardless of the party in power. At the most basic level all want to see attainment rise, and for the gap between the most disadvantaged and their peers to close, so the Pupil Premium is still in. As for the rest..

Academies – will continue to dominate the structural landscape.  The status of Free Schools that exist, or are due to open shortly, will be protected, and Morgan is committed to the  expansion of Free Schools -500–  but the big question,  given the crisis in primary places (see below)  is will they be restricted  to areas where there is a shortage of capacity?  Or will groups still be able to establish schools in areas where there are surplus places? There is also the vexed question of rural and coastal areas- where there are too few good schools, and where academy chains seldom venture. What to do about these deprived areas?   The debate over autonomy and what it means, will continue and local authorities will seek more influence over education. Though they wont get more control over schools, there is still a role for LAs in education , for example as  champions of fair admissions and vulnerable pupils and those who fall between the gaps.

Collaboration – There will be a greater focus on what good collaboration looks like and the need for schools and groups of schools to become more engaged in meaningful collaboration to improve student outcomes.  There will be pressure on successful schools and chains of schools to expand and to help others that are perceived as less successful.  There is a correlation between collaboration and academic success, but networking is not, in itself, sufficient and needs to be rooted in a substantive body of evidence.  It is also the case (whisper it softly) that some high performing  chains operate effectively, more through top down prescription than meaningful  collaboration.

Evidence informed practice- is high on the agenda. Its accepted that if you want better teachers and teaching  to drive up attainment and narrow the achievement gap, you have got to ensure that the best practice is identified and shared  widely across the system. You also need to ensure that   high quality  research on what interventions work best in the classroom is identified , or indeed commissioned,  managed,  and can then  be utilized effectively at the chalk face. There are challenges here, of course,  in identifying what good research looks like ,and in ensuring that the full  context is taken into account and teachers can still apply their professional judgement, but these challenges are not insurmountable. More schools look likely to engage in action research.This allows a pragmatic, iterative approach of trying things out, evaluating their effects and adjusting interventions in response to data.

Professional Development – there will a greater focus on support for identifying and supporting high quality continuous professional development in the teaching workforce, raising the quality of classroom teaching, while seeking to raise the status of the profession.  The way you improve outcomes is to improve instruction and the key to this is identifying good CPD and using interventions that are known to work.(see above). Also watch out for the College of Teaching to help raise the status of the Profession. That will happen.

Accountability – there will be efforts to improve the accountability of schools and establish an effective middle tier of accountability, to seek to identify early, schools that are failing or ‘coasting’. Schools will be obliged to provide more data to feed greater accountability.  Chains may be allowed to expand – but, as now, there will be a focus on the quality and added value delivered by chains, and there will be restrictions on expansion which will need to meet certain defined thresholds.  There will be a debate about the limits of autonomy, the restrictions and limits placed on chains and the way they can invest resources, to improve pupil outcomes.

Ofsted – at the centre of the accountability regime, it is highly likely that it will be reformed to ensure that it wins back the trust of the profession.  Significantly, it looks likely that a reformed Ofsted will inspect chains for the value added they are providing.  However, the system needs to be tightened up to ensure greater consistency, predictability and fairness, whether inspecting chains or individual schools.  There will be increased focus on the governance by and of chains too.

Careers – In the last few months Morgan conjured up  some cash  for  an independent company-£20m-  that will broker among stakeholders  careers advice in schools.  Its supposed to promote both  careers and enterprise.  The government will also be keen to get more direct inputs and engagement from employers and better quality  work experience (although employers can never be a substitute for professional careers advisers).The worry is  that start up and staff costs will eat up quite a lot of this pump primed funding and there wont be much to replace it, when its gone ,which may be sooner rather than later. Doubts remain in the sector about how effective this new company can be and lobbying by stakeholders  for a more holistic, strategic approach rather than the patchy, fragmented one we have now,   is inevitable-  to ensure greater  access and equity to careers education and guidance for all ages. This  could also  help the government deliver on   some of its broader  educational, social, skills  and economic objectives.   How do you improve social mobility, for example, if young people are making poorly informed  decisions and choices at an early age that will act as a barrier to their upward  mobility? And how do you encourage young people to look at high quality apprenticeships as a serious option if there is nobody to highlight this and guide them through the options.?

There will be other issues on the agenda , of course.  A greater focus on character education and non-cognitive skills (Morgan is  particularly keen on this). More priority given to mental health issues and safeguarding children’s welfare, and filling teacher vacancies in shortage subjects,  And . addressing  teachers workload is seen as a priority for Morgan  , but much of this  workload is down to politicians previous decisions and interventions. It will be interesting to see how  she copes with this and whether she reduces the regulations that spawn much of the extra work.

And the elephant in the room-  we are still in living in  austere times and there will be less money around. The squeeze on funding means that schools will have less funding to play with perhaps  as much as 12% less. That will lead to problems and  hard decisions  for Heads and governors . And then there  is the capacity shortage (another elephant has crept in almost unnoticed) .By 2020 there will be 650,000 more pupils in the school system than there are today.   The Government has not made sufficient  capital provision to address the chronic shortage in primary places in many areas of the country.The scale of this problem  will  shortly  become evident.

So,  arguably, Morgan  has  more than enough to be getting on with. Will this  mean  fewer  initiatives?   Unlikely.



SSATs  recent pamphlet ‘Building on consensus’ anticipates that  Character education will be  one of the policy themes that will be on the education  agenda,  post May, whichever party or coalition wins power. That must surely be right. Certainly all the major parties have made recent announcements about the importance of character education and the support for the development of non-cognitive skills in young people , much in demand among employers and HE admissions tutors.

This is what SSAT says:

‘The established consensus, across the major parties and society, is that schools must look beyond just exam passes and make it part of their ‘core business’ to nurture broader individual qualities in young people. It is not either academic or character education; it is both. Teachers play an important role in character education and development. Some form of character education takes place in most schools. But it is important that character education is intentional, planned, organised and reflective’.

But what of the role of teachers? Can they teach character?

SSAT says ‘While character cannot be ‘taught’ in an instructional way, schools have an important part to play in the development of character. Specifically, they can systematically plan, deliver and track experiences and opportunities that will allow students to develop resilience, confidence and other character traits’

So its not about sitting  pupils down in a lesson and teaching them about character.  (although a look at the life of the explorer Ernest Shackleton would do no harm in this respect ) Its about ensuring that young people are engaged in activities that allow their own and others’ character traits to be revealed. So teachers can help young people become more reflective and self-aware. Learn about character by doing, and by example. But there is  also  a need  for young people to draw from  their own   knowledge base, for them to have a full understanding of what  good character and virtue look like.

Pupils need to be challenged and supported by not only their teachers but also their parents and peers. And a good education strikes the right balance between academic skills and character development, which are mutually supportive.

More research needs to be done on support for character development and the evaluation of non-cognitive skills. But its worth looking in some detail at the work undertaken in this area by Professor James Arthur at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Values, University of Birmingham.






SSAT –seeks reform that builds on current consensus

Building on Consensus covers 10 themes with policy recommendations attached

An SSAT paper ‘Building on consensus’, launched on 23 April, explores the key areas of educational policy that are likely to be pursued by any political party post May 2015.

SSAT states ‘Rather than create a manifesto suggesting a whole new set of policies, we believe that it is more valuable to look for areas of consensus, agreement and compromise across the main parties, and build on these.’

The paper was launched in conjunction with the publication Vision 2040  a forward-looking pamphlet written by nine practitioners, from the Vision 2040 group.

The ideas and policy recommendations in the Building on consensus paper were informed by a series of Discussion Dinners hosted by SSAT over the last year, attracting key academics, policymakers and teachers that looked at various education themes ranging from collaboration through to evidence informed practice , careers guidance   and accountability. It is predicated on the fact that there are a number of issues that will remain on the education agenda after the election, whichever party or coalition is  in power and  that there is some cross party consensus around these issues. It  is therefore  sensible to build on this consensus and work with the grain to achieve  positive outcomes  over the next five years.


A common thread running through this paper is the importance of hard- edged  collaboration and partnership working,  to improve outcomes, combined with a plea to politicians to respect the  teaching profession. It says ‘the core of an effective self-improving school system is sound collaboration and partnership working to improve student outcomes.’ The importance of good research, and in particular teacher- led research, is highlighted. As far as structures are concerned, SSAT calls for autonomous schools to be given more support and in particular for chains to be incentivised to take on small schools.  It sees an important role for a genuinely independent new College of Teaching, in establishing ‘a truly profession-led’ system.  On social mobility (missing from most manifestos) it supports targeted funding for the most disadvantaged, with interventions informed by evidence,  and  says that every student should have  a personalised learning experience ‘– a key to social mobility. The plight of rural and coastal schools is acknowledged too, with a new more nuanced approach needed,  and with funding and resource arrangements reviewed in order to ensure that rural and coastal schools are receiving appropriate support for their needs. On character education, we need more research, but schools can ‘systematically plan, deliver and track experiences and opportunities that will allow students to develop resilience, confidence and other character traits’. It warns that Politicians and school leaders should stop striving for parity of esteem between vocational and academic education; they are different and these differences should be valued for their own sake. Young peoples’ careers guidance is both patchy and fragmented, so a much better approach is required in which the key stakeholders collaborate more effectively, and all young people have easy access to professional face to face advice.  And, on accountability, SSAT believes while  there will always be a need for an external inspectorate,  the current inspection framework needs further reform. Greater efforts must be made to increase faith in the accountability framework. This could be achieved,  it believes in part,’ by the promotion of peer reviews and professional learning dialogues between schools.’

SSAT is particularly   concerned by the impact of the published point’s allocation for the legacy GCSEs and ‘wants review of the legacy GCSE points allocation.’ In 2017, when we move from an 8 point to a 9 point scale, the gain between lower grades will be less than the gain between higher grades (moving from F to E is a gain of 0.5, whereas moving from B to A is a gain of 1.5). This will unfairly disadvantage schools that have a majority of students predicted lower grades, and undermines Progress 8’s principle that every child’s progress should count equally’.


The SSATs recommendations, for politicians, under the ten consensus themes, were as follows:


Collaboration and Partnership Working


Support the development of an enabling environment in which schools can collaborate with one another to raise student outcomes.


Create incentives which promote collaboration and regulate perverse disincentives.


Evidence informed Practice and Policy


Change the way that research is currently funded and commissioned so that it becomes closer to school needs.


Design policies that allow school leaders to make their own professional decisions informed by a range of evidence, including local context.


Support a more strategic and comprehensive system of knowledge management, dissemination and sharing



Systems and Structures


Where increased autonomy is given to schools, also give increased support.


Incentivise chains to take on smaller, vulnerable schools


Teacher quality and professionalism


Continue support for the independent College of Teaching as a body to inform teaching standards and develop teachers’ education.


Continue support of teaching schools as a vehicle to improve teacher quality locally.


Agree a common curriculum for ITT, with schools and universities working in partnership.


Social mobility


Continue to fund disadvantaged students at a whole school level in order to close the achievement gap while ensuring that interventions are informed by sound research.


Rural and coastal challenge


A new approach to understanding rural and coastal deprivation is needed.


Establish more equitable funding, as well as incentives for partnership working for rural and coastal schools.


Character building and employability


Establish more systematic efforts to identify and share best practice in character education.


Conduct research into how to measure or assess character education.


Vocational education


Ensure that all accredited vocational courses have a significant practical assessed element.


Implement vocational education courses that are valued byschools, employers and young people for their own sake.


Careers education, information, advice and guidance


Develop a brokerage system that is effective and ensures a good interface between young people, employers, careers advisers and other stakeholders, based on an open, collaborative approach.


The system must offer easy access to face-to-face independent professional careers advice and guidance to all young people




Further reform the inspection framework to ensure schools have real autonomy to make decisions in the interests of their students.


Undertake a review of the legacy GCSE point’s allocation, and make a public statement confirming how this data will be interpreted.


Building on consensus-SSAT policy Recommendations 2015




The Vision 2040 group was formed in 2013 at the start of SSAT’s Redesigning Schooling campaign, the brainchild of SSATs chief executive, Sue Williamson .

The volunteers, a group of school teachers and leaders, came from a broad range of schools nationally.(see note below)

Vision 2040 said it produced the document out of frustration at the “short-termism” of policy cycles, and said this had a damaging impact on schools.

The initial remit defined by the group was to inform the Redesigning Schooling agenda through school-based action research projects within and across their schools. It was quickly realised, however, that a bigger issue was at stake – the system-wide barriers to a profession-led vision needed tackling head on. And so, in the summer of 2014, the group redefined their remit and the idea for this pamphlet was born. The work was initially led by Tom Sherrington, before Stephen Tierney took  up the reins.

The purpose , the group says, is not to predict the future but to engage readers in: thinking about the journey ahead,  ‘taking the best of what we do forward, while abandoning those things which hold us back; discussing and debating key ideas; and influencing the next generation of education policies. In time, we believe these policies can be generated by a self-improving school led system, rather than being done to us by politicians.’

Most fundamentally, the group of Heads and Deputies   want ‘ to develop a national conversation to determine the core principles that a future education system should be built on and that would govern future policy development and implementation and to agree the outcomes expected of the education system, with associated valid and reliable metrics which all schools aspire to and can attain.’

The Vision 2040 group set about the task of envisaging what they hoped education would look like in 2040, and worked back from that point.  So, the pamphlet has been written as an historical narrative looking back from 2040 at the changing decades of educational reform between 2010 and 2040. The story follows 25 years in the professional life of a newly qualified teacher in 2015, tracking the key events and milestones that, by 2040, have revolutionised the education system as we know it now.

It’s a system, as envisaged, that sees the establishment of a Royal Commission on Education that oversees a decade of reconstruction from 2020 .Core values that drive  the education system are equity, quality and agency. The Royal College of Teaching is firmly embedded championing ‘authentic professionalism’ and there are regional Royal College of Teaching research universities by 2020. A moratorium is imposed on all changes and inspections for a time.  It sees  the end of Ofsted, as we know it, and the system  by the 2030s  is heading towards maturity ,  characterised by  ‘Collective moral purpose, high professional capital and self and peer evaluation and challenge have begun to take root across the ‘education system’.’

There are barbs in here too ,about the  on-going  education reforms, for serving politicians to mull over:

‘Changes in qualifications, their assessment, accountability measures, and the disastrous Ofqual interventions with grade boundaries at the beginning of the decade rendered league tables nonsensical and shattered any sense of validity or reliability. In the later part of the decade, education was damaged by the ill-thought through curriculum changes. These changes came quick and fast, and though they had laudable elements, they proved incoherent.’

‘And many of the early reforms ‘caused consternation for many, a lack of equity for children and an absence of agency for teachers, support staff and governors’

.It lists 10 “starter points”, which include reconsidering “all current curriculum, assessment and wider policy changes to determine which should be abandoned, which could be delayed and which should continue to be addressed”.

It also suggests creating “geographical families of schools” over the next decade with a simple governance structure.

It is though , above all, an optimistic vision, with collaboration  and peer to peer support at its heart. And no school is an island. The sunny uplands can be seen in the far distance. So, in 2040:

‘The quality of teaching and learning has never been better due to the regional Royal College of Teaching universities whose Masters’ programmes for initial and continuous teacher education have been replicated around the world. The outcome is universal high-equity outcomes and a society that is fairer and more at peace with itself than it has ever been.’

The document works well , and should be read in conjunction with  SSATs  ‘Building on consensus’ pamphlet, which has a shorter term view  and  identifies  ten areas of consensus in education that will remain on the agenda, post May, regardless of the party or coalition in power,  and provides some  constructive  policy recommendations under each theme.



The Vision 2040 group was formed in 2013 and compromises of: Stephen Tierney (Chair), Executive Headteacher of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust; Keven Bartle, Headteacher of Canons High School; Michael Bettles, Deputy Headteacher of Heathfield Community School; Annie Eagle, Deputy Headteacher of The Romsey School; Sapuran Gill, Deputy Headteacher of The Heathland School; Rachel Hudson, Deputy Headteacher of Neston High School; Nigel Matthias, Deputy Headteacher of Bay House School and Sixth Form; Alex Quigley, Director of Learning and Research of Huntington School; Rosanna Raimato,


The paper can downloaded at




Building on consensus-SSAT policy Recommendations 2015