Making every careers conversation count

How Teach First’s Careers Leader programme helped embed careers support across a Trust of schools in Bournemouth.

Preparing young people from low-income communities in England for life beyond the school gates is key to ensuring their future success. Working in partnership with schools, we help to develop careers education strategies that schools can use to help their pupils make informed decisions about their future.

When we spoke to James Livermore he’d been working at Harewood College, Bournemouth, for eight years. As well as being the Year 10 Learning Coordinator, he was also responsible for careers education and work experience for the school. We discussed how Teach First’s Careers Leaders programme helped him to improve the careers provision for his school and the wider Avonbourne Schools Trust.

“The programme provided guidance on how to accurately assess the existing careers support at our school. This was a necessary step for us to develop a strategy that was robust and fit-for-purpose. The audit was positive in the sense that it showed us that we already do a huge amount around careers. However, it also highlighted that it’s not always joined up. It was important for us to have a careers provision that was manageable and sustainable, and the programme framed our position and enabled us to set realistic objectives that would benefit our students.

Before the programme, conversations with students about careers were fairly ad-hoc, unrecorded and effectively meaningless, as we weren’t following up on these discussions. Now, we’ve launched a Trust-wide database, so that conversations about a pupil’s interests, hobbies and aspirations are recorded and any teacher can see this data. A few days of hard work in setting up the database has given us something that can be used year after year. Now, every careers conversation counts.

For me personally, it was challenging to think strategically about the whole Trust, rather than just one department, but there was a framework that I was able to follow to create a strategy that would have a legacy, not only at Harewood College, but at other schools in the Trust. I’m confident that the strategy that we have put in place will still be going strong in ten years.

You work together as a team of local schools to enable change, to make sure that all students are getting the best skills and knowledge.

There is a competitiveness between schools that can sometimes hinder shared learning, but one of the great things about the programme is that it encourages you to leave your loyalties at the door. You work together as a team of local schools to enable change, to make sure that all students are getting the best skills and knowledge we can give them to realise their dreams.

It’s great to be able to work with other schools who are under the same pressure and challenges as you and the programme really facilitates this. You work closely with colleagues, not just at training sessions, but through the network to share strategies, best practice and successes.

For Harewood College, one of the areas that we wanted to improve was our work experience offering, which was having little impact on the post-16 choices of our students. We had a limited variety of industries being represented at mock interview days, resulting in pupils not getting a full picture of what’s available to them.

We were able to double the number of industries that supported the mock interview days and one business even led a CV-writing day…

The programme introduced us to a huge number of external providers. We were able to double the number of industries that supported the mock interview days and one business even led a CV-writing day for a challenging group of Year 10 students who’d previously been unable to apply for work experience because they didn’t have a CV. The result of our partnership with businesses is that it’s not only Gifted and Talented students receiving support. Students across the school and the Trust are now making informed decisions about what they want to do beyond school and they are more knowledgeable about the pathway to get them there. In 2020 we’re going to overhaul work experience and bring it in–house. We plan to use the programme contacts to bring in an even wider range of industries.”

The support from the Teach First lead has been fantastic. You get one contact so you can build a strong rapport. Having been involved with the initial audit, they fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of the careers offering, and they’re available any time for questions. The programme lead attended meetings with the Senior Leadership Team to help with buy-in, engaging them in the importance of improving careers provision and developing a strategy. They also helped communicate the importance of every teacher playing a role to other staff.

Thanks to the programme every pupil knows there’s a careers team embedded in the Trust, they know every teacher has a role to play in careers support, and who to go to for guidance. There are clear lines of communication and this allows advice to be specifically tailored to each student, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to achieve the career goals that they set for themselves.”

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