In 2013/14 at Bexleyheath Academy, only 0.7 per cent of year 11 and 1.5 per cent of year 13 leavers were NEET (not in education, employment or training) respectively – well below the national and London average. Below is a quick overview of some of our key strategies and approaches that have led to this success.
Work out where your students have gone: the destinations figures collected by the Department for Education (DfE) are not yet as accurate as they would like and a lot of that is because the data they are using has not been cleansed.
By making sure that your student roll actually matches the one that the government uses you can avoid the “unknowns”, and it is very important that if students leave your institution in years 7 to 11 that the data you hold about their next destination is as detailed as possible. Like most schools, we keep a student-by-student record of exactly where our pupils go once they leave us at year 11, 12 and 13 and check that this information is accurate by emailing the students during the following academic year.
Through this information we have developed an alumni network of former students who can help confirm other students’ destinations, but are also excellent role-models for our current students when they come back to the academy to mentor younger students and talk about their experiences at post-16 or 18 events.
What do they want?
Find out what your students want to do. By conducting and then analysing intended destination surveys early on in the academic year with years 10s and 11s (as well as years 12s and 13s if you have a sixth form), it will help you to identify who needs additional support with their next steps.
We keep the forms very simple by asking a small number of questions. We get the students to complete their answers during assemblies and then follow up any absent students through their tutors.
This information can then be used to effectively target any opportunities we receive from employers, universities or charities, as well as to flag-up those students who we need to work with – for example in applying to college, putting together an Apprenticeship application, finding relevant work experience, etc.
Value your CEIAG
Ensure your school values destinations and careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG). While this sounds like an obvious thing to say, when there is no extra money to deliver this work it is very easy to overlook the importance of it. If you are trying to influence key stakeholders in your school you should remind them that destinations will soon be one of the five headline measures to be published in the 16 to 18 performance tables and they form part of the key stage 5 Ofsted judgement. Similarly, Ofsted inspectors have been asked to explore the ways in which students from years 8 to 13 receive effective careers guidance.
A CEIAG strategy
Put together a CEIAG strategy. As well as being an Ofsted requirement, creating such a document gives you the chance to examine what you have in place for each year group and what your outcomes have been so far. We created our own structure for the strategy, but took inspiration from the Cegnet framework (www.cegnet.co.uk).
Value all pathways
Value all progression routes from your school. It is essential that students are aware of all the different possibilities for their next steps. For our year 11s, we run a post-16 progression evening for parents and students to which we invite local colleges, training providers and employers as well as universities.
We then support students who make applications to other providers because we recognise that our sixth form is not always the best option for everyone. For our sixth form leavers we promote a variety of different pathways.
In addition, we also make students aware of Apprenticeships, school-leaver programmes and employment opportunities by working closely with employers. By making students aware of these options and ensuring they know the requirements for each, we have reduced our NEET figures and seen a reduction in the number of students who drop-out of their post-18 destinations.
Employers and universities
We are very fortunate to have partnerships with three large employers, two of whom are multi-national companies, who provide our students with work experiences, mock interviews, Apprenticeship information events, employment and skills challenges, support for career events and match-funding for Outward Bound trips.
We have cultivated these relationships over a number of years and our partners tell us that they enjoy working with us because we are engaged and give them the support to make the relationship work.
Similarly, we work closely with universities to provide higher education-related experiences for our students, such as summer schools, master classes, taster classes and challenge days. Developing these relationships takes commitment and time but result in excellent experiences for our students.
Dedicated CEIAG leads
Employ dedicated people to lead, deliver and report on CEIAG. We have two members of staff who work on pathways and progression as well as an independent careers advisor who is in the school three days a week. The cost is considerable, but we are fortunate to work in a school where the staff and senior team appreciate the importance of creating well-rounded individuals who are able to make informed choices for their next steps.
Beckie Knight-Croft is director of pathways at Bexleyheath Academy in London, where she leads on partnerships with employers, universities and charities, as well as working on curriculum and careers.