Cover story - July 16, 2018

Twenty 'hubs' to help schools improve careers provision

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced the locations of 20 ‘Careers Hubs’ which will share £5m of government funding.

The intention to create the hubs had originally been announced by the government in their Careers Strategy, published by the DfE in December 2017. The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC), a ‘quango’ established by former education secretary Nicky Morgan in 2015, was then tasked with establishing the hubs in conjunction with existing Local Enterprise Partnerships. A pilot programme was carried out in the north east region and deemed successful. The percentage of young people in the north east region who were not in education, employment or training (NEET) halved during the pilot period, according to figures from the Social Mobility Commission. Each of the new hubs will involve up to 40 local schools and colleges, who will work together with universities, training providers and employers with the aim of improving careers education for the young people in their region.

According to the CEC, from September 2018, 710 schools and colleges will work within a hub, and there will be at least one hub in every region of England outside London. This would mean that one in five English secondary schools and colleges would be part of a Careers Hub. One of the aims of the hubs will be to assist schools with meeting various requirements set out in the government’s Careers Strategy. From January this year schools have been required to give providers of technical education and apprenticeships the opportunity to talk to their pupils, and should also be using the ‘Gatsby Benchmarks’ to improve their careers provision. These benchmarks were developed by the Gatsby Foundation and include linking curriculum learning to careers, and offering pupils experience of different workplaces. By the end of 2020, schools will be required to offer pupils at least seven ‘encounters’ with employers - at least one each year from years 7 to 13.

Announcing the locations of the hubs, Damian Hinds, secretary of state for education, said ‘The Careers Hubs announced today will support young people with the right advice to help them make decisions about their future by building better links with employers and providing practical guidance and support to improve the provision of careers advice in schools.’ Also commenting on the announcement, Deepa Jethwa, careers policy lead at the Sixth Form Colleges Association said ‘The hubs will enable colleges to pool local expertise and secure high quality, impartial careers advice for students’.

The announcement of the Careers Hubs’ locations comes as a survey found first-year undergraduate students are often unsure of their options, and arrive at university without a clear career plan. The ‘First year Career Readiness Survey’, carried out by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), involved 2008 first year students from 18 higher education institutions. It explored students’ previous experiences of careers support, motivations for course choice, steps already taken to enhance their employability and future career plans. Among the findings was that fewer than one third of students aged 21 or younger at the start of their studies had clear career ideas before they chose their university course, and that the proportion of students who had received advice about university course choice from tutors/teachers and careers advisers at state schools was almost half that of students educated at private schools. This gap was at least partly attributable to uptake of advice and guidance, as its availability was often similar between the two types of school.

Commenting on the survey, Elaine Boyes, executive director of AGCAS, said, ‘This report suggests the need for a critical reflection of the radical changes to careers provision in secondary education…since 2012. The significant gaps between students from state-funded and private-funded schools cannot be narrowed without policy change, financial investment and supporting resources.’

More information about the AGCAS survey can be found at:

The DfE Careers Strategy can be found at:  


Cover story - July 9, 2018

Proposed baseline assessments 'flawed' says expert panel

The government’s proposed baseline assessment tests for pupils in reception have been labelled ‘wholly unfit for purpose’ by a panel of assessment experts. The panel, convened by the British Educational Research Association (BERA), also called the tests ‘flawed’ and ‘unjustified’ in a report, A baseline without basis.

Plans for proposed baseline assessments were confirmed by the Department for Education (DfE) in April 2018, and pilots will be conducted from 2020. It will be an activity-based assessment of pupils’ ability in early mathematics skills, in communication, language and literacy, and also potentially in self-regulation. The government intends to use the assessments to create school-level progress measures for primary schools, showing the progress pupils have made from reception through to the end of key stage 2 (KS2). However, these measures will not begin to be published for the first time until 2027, when pupils who enter reception in 2020 will have reached the end of KS2.

In their report the panel argue that the proposed assessments will not lead to accurate comparisons between schools. Among the flaws they identify is that the tests will aggregate the different elements being assessed to produce a single number result, something which the panel describes as ‘misguided’, arguing that it would ‘ignore the fact that children may perform differently in each domain, and that some domains are better predictors of progress in different areas of the curriculum than others’. The panel also criticise the assessments for failing to control for age effects, either at the initial baseline test or when looking at progress at the end of KS2. The panel note that ‘Just a few month’s difference in age has been shown to produce pronounced developmental differences at reception age’. The report also argues that insufficient consideration has been given to the effects of pupil mobility between schools, and the turnover of teachers and school leaders during the seven year period which will be considered.

The report also criticises the assessments as not offering any value to the children who will be assessed, highlighting that pupils ‘will be exposed to tests that offer no formative help in establishing their needs and/or in developing teaching strategies capable of meeting them’. The DfE has previously stated that the assessment process will not be used to ‘judge, label or track individual pupils’. However the panel argue that because teachers administering the test will see children’s scores, there is a risk that ‘some children – particularly the summer-born, those with English as an additional language and those with special educational needs – could be unnecessarily labelled as low-ability at the very beginning of their education’. The risk, they go on to suggest, is that such judgements may then become ‘self-fulfilling’. 

Welcoming the report, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), commented ‘BERA’s expert panel has demonstrated that the Government’s plans for baseline assessment are built on wishful thinking, not evidence. The DfE will spend nearly £10 million on introducing tests …..that cannot produce reliable results, and will not help teachers support children in their learning. This is a gross misuse of resources.  The Department must respond to BERA’s detailed critique, and withdraw its wasteful and unjustifiable plans’.

Also responding to the report, a DfE spokesperson said: ‘The reception baseline assessment has received support from the schools sector and is being designed and delivered by the National Foundation for Education Research, with pilots in schools across the country, to make sure it works for teachers and their pupils. The assessment is just the first half of a progress measure and an important step in making sure that schools are recognised for the education that they provide to all their pupils whatever their background, including those in reception classes, year one and year two.‎’

The full report can be read at: