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How can a MAT ensure consistency of CEIAG across all academies, while aligning with the Gatsby Benchmarks.

How can a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) ensure consistency of Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) across all academies, while aligning with the Gatsby Benchmarks.

How can a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) ensure consistency of Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) across all academies, while aligning with the Gatsby Benchmarks.

When the much-anticipated White Paper, “Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child” was published by the Secretary of State for Education on 28 March 2022 it set out the government’s vision for the future of schooling with an emphasis on all schools becoming part of multi-academy trusts (MATs) by 2030.

Since the introduction of the Academies Act 2010, standards have improved rapidly with 86% of schools now rated good or outstanding, compared to 68% in 2010. Currently there are almost 10,000 academies, of which 8,500 are in MATs that have more than one school.

The transfer of failing schools, who need experience, resources, and consistency, into strong trusts has meant that in most cases schools are revitalised in terms of outcomes, behaviours, and aspirations. More than 7 out of 10 sponsored academies are now rated good or outstanding, compared to 1 in 10 of the local authority-maintained schools they replaced because of the consistency and boundaries that have been put in place.

A key success of MATs is using their collaborative structure to provide excellent outcomes for pupils by combining their resources. The delivery of careers services across MATs, however, has proved far more complex, with many MATs failing to consistently deliver the complete package of Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CIEAG) required by the Gatsby benchmarks, the eight-point framework for the improvement of careers provision adopted as part of the government’s Careers Strategy. The Gatsby benchmarks are seen as important for social mobility for students who may not have social or home support but require high-quality advice to make informed decisions about their next steps.

It becomes really tricky for MATs when employing a careers adviser directly, to comply with the Department for Educations requirement for a minimum level 6 qualification in careers guidance and to maintain consistency, quality assurance and professional development (in an area unfamiliar to them). MATS often also have career leads who are teachers juggling multiple roles without the time to research and develop effective programmes. With career leads busy with their day-to-day jobs, stretched career’s advisers can become distracted by other areas of focus and isolated, with little support and resources available.  This often means that MATs are failing to deliver on all Gatsby benchmarks and neglecting quality within benchmark 8 in particular.

Working across MATs who may have different sets of challenges and cultures is possible and this is where Progress Careers comes into its own. With access to a team of careers advisers with expertise across career areas and career paths we can look creatively at how we can work with each school to deliver what their students need, while meeting benchmark and best practice challenges.

Reviewing careers programmes takes the pressure off schools and careers leads and our partnerships with organisations such as the Careers Enterprise Company (CEC) allow us to adapt to deliver the best careers programme which can look hugely different even across schools within the same MAT.

Delivering the impartiality and personal advice required by Gatsby benchmark 8 is a challenge many schools struggle to meet. Those schools with sixth forms find it difficult to be impartial as they have a vested interest in delivering a progression route past Year 11 for their students, which needs to remain viable for the school to be successful.

To deliver benchmark 8 well requires Progress Careers to be immersed in the school’s careers programme alongside the careers lead. Contributing to the career’s activities taking place from Year 7 onwards helps us to support students making critical decisions about their career planning as early as possible.

Collaborating with schools to deliver on the Gatsby benchmarks also requires evidence to demonstrate how they are met. Working with MATs who are geographically dispersed means that our regional knowledge, local labour market intelligence and careers networks can provide a host of untapped opportunities for students, addressing Gatsby benchmarks 2 and 4.

Working with schools we are continually prioritising student need and looking at different options to deliver information and advice. These include arranging Careers Cafes, employer lunchtime visits, assemblies with guest speakers and parent’s evenings with integrated careers advice. To support schools evidencing benchmark 5 we have offered mock interviews in some schools and are continually developing our links with further and higher education. This is all part of an ongoing process which sees us continually reframing how people view careers and careers guidance and demonstrating what students can achieve.

The cost benefits of working with Progress Careers speak for themselves. The challenges faced by MATs of having a single careers adviser in each school can only lead to limited capacity to offer dynamic advice due to the pressure of a lone adviser having a high caseload. Lack of input from other professionals, no absence cover and a lack of strategic insight all pose issues when relying on an individual adviser. The pressure of having to merge a careers team across the MAT, conduct observations of professional practice or consider quality assurance is taken on by Progress Careers and we provide cohesion and coordinate and facilitate best practice.

While schools who are part of MATs can form communities and share approaches to improve outcomes for their students, Trusts can also achieve economies of scale by centralising functions, joint procurement and instilling a collaborative mindset. Working with each other, local authorities, and third-party suppliers of services like Progress Careers can and does deliver the best results.

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