On 4 November 2015, the Committee visited Lilian Baylis Technology School, a community secondary school for students aged 11–19 in Kennington, London. The following members attended: Baroness Corston (Chairman), Lord Farmer, Lord Holmes of Richmond, Baroness Howells of St Davids, Earl of Kinnoull, Baroness Morris of Yardley, Baroness Sharp of Guildford and Baroness Tyler of Enfield. Three staff accompanied the Committee: Emily Greenwood, Luke Hussey and Morgan Sim as well as Professor Ann-Marie Bathmaker (Specialist Adviser).
The purpose of the visit was to meet three groups of students. Two groups consisted of Year 10 and Year 11 students who did not plan to take A-Levels. The other group was made up of students in the school’s sixth form who were studying BTEC qualifications. The Committee also met senior staff of the school who had responsibility for the sixth form and for career guidance.
The students were asked about the options available to them when you they left school, how they were supported in making decisions, what part work experience played in a successful career, what careers were on offer in their local area, and what skills they thought employers wanted.
Some students had a firm idea of what they wanted to do and some did not know. There was an even split between students who planned to continue their studies in the school’s sixth form and those who intended to leave and go to college. In general, students spoke about their final destination being university and were optimistic about their future. All students in the group felt that the school prepared them well for employment–and developed skills such as team working. But they said that not many employers came in to school to talk to them about jobs.
The options for careers that the students were considering were varied. They included football coaching, working in a sportswear store, studying mechanical engineering at university, Business and Spanish A-Levels, BTECs at college, and sports college.
Students explained that the school had a scheme called Omnicom which was linked to Disney. This was project work and the students were split into six teams and tried to create insights for a new film. Four internships were given out at the end.
They thought that communications and presentation skills were particularly highly sought for by employers.
Most of the students had an idea of what they wanted to do when they left school. One student said that the advice in school had been helpful but you had to know who to ask. Another student had spoken to their careers advisor about college but they did go into a lot of detail. Personal tutors at the school would keep them up to date and could give them a heads-up on what they need to do. The students mentioned that there people from outside the college would come in to talk about careers. The year 11 cohort had a smaller mentoring scheme, similar to the ‘adopt a student’ scheme in the sixth form, which the students found helpful. One student said that their mentor would go over their grades and helped them with time management.
Another student noted that good careers advice needed a high level of engagement.
The options being considered by students were varied. Several had a strong desire to work in developing countries and others to work outside London. The fields of work they were aiming for included sports, entrepreneurialism and architecture. Some wanted to pursue a university degree, in particular in physical science subjects.
Students recognised that work experience helped them to get into the labour market. Several of them had a friend or a relative, or someone somebody knew, who had given them the link to their chosen career path. It was felt that work experience and an initial job might be challenging to require and would require a lot of self-organisation and drive. A priority for some students was earning enough money to contribute to their family income in return for having been supported by their family through their education.
They identified multitasking and the ability to work independently as the skills particularly sought by employers.
As with the other groups, some sixth form students had always known what they wanted to do, those who still had no idea, and some who had experienced something that had given them an idea.
A few students were still unsure of where to go for advice but most said they had felt supported in making decisions. One student said that the school pushed the students to decide what they were going to do. The Year 13 Guidance teacher would send students emails each week to remind them of deadlines. In relation to the next steps after A-Levels, the students mentioned that there was a strong emphasis on UCAS and university application process. One student remarked that they had felt pressured into choosing a course that they didn’t want to do and that this had limited their options.
Another student mentioned the school’s ‘adopt a student’ scheme, described by the Year 11s. Mentors could assist students in a variety of ways, including support with writing their CV and personal statement and, in some instances, offered students work experience. Her mentor was a CEO of a law firm and had connections to people in the industry that she otherwise wouldn’t have had access to.
Students recognised that work experience helped to get into work environment and the local labour market. They differed on the value of the work experience they had undertaken, with some feeling it was not relevant to their aspirations.
The students identified communication skills, confidence, wearing professional work clothing, the ability to work in a team, and time management as being particularly sought by employers.
Following on from the session with the students, the Committee took part in a roundtable discussion with five members of staff from the school, including the Deputy Head teacher (sixth form) the Year 12 Guidance teacher, the Head of Careers, the Year 13 Guidance teacher and the Deputy Head teacher (Information, Advice and Guidance).
The discussion explored the following themes:
(i)The challenges facing the group of students who are ‘middle attainers’ and who will not follow the A-Level/University route.
(ii)The preparation of students for the world of work, which could include the provision of work experience; the teaching of employability and Life Skills, and of careers advice (and the challenges in successfully delivering it, the appropriate time to deliver it, and the nature of it).
(iii)Schools and colleges working together to support transitions between institutions and transitions into employment.
(iv)Business engagement with schools and the curriculum.
It was noted that the priority for the middle attainers was to ensure that they were not held back by having inadequate levels of literacy or numeracy, measured by getting a C GCSE which would open the door to university, an apprenticeship or a good job. Otherwise they were at risk of becoming NEET, with lifelong implications.
The approach to careers advice was discussed and the need for it to be proactive but also tailored to the needs of the individual was noted. It was easier in a small school to devolve the delivery of this advice and support to an individual operating on their own. In these circumstances they were more likely to get to know students well and for the students to feel comfortable talking to them.
Apprenticeships were thought to be quite hard to obtain. The teachers underscored the value of relationships which the schools had with providers of work experience. The school placed great emphasis on an access project which provided free tutoring to help students raise their grades in order to apply for the more competitive university places.
Last year 60 out of the 66 students had gone on to university.
Although in most FE colleges, students were able to do either BTECS or A-Levels, at Lilian Baylis they could do both.
565 The BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) Level 3 Extended Diploma is a secondary school leaving qualification and vocational qualification taken in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The qualification is organised and awarded by the Edexcel within the BTEC brand and it is equivalent to A-Levels.