Briefing

Getting ready for work – Ofsted reports on work-related learning in secondary schools

Posted by: Sam Macdonald | Date posted : 21/12/2016

Ofsted has published its findings on the provision of "enterprise education" in secondary schools.

The report says that "enterprise education" involves "teaching pupils the knowledge and skills they will need to be future employees and potential employers. It includes, but is not limited to, teaching financial and organisational capability, while also providing opportunities to raise pupils' awareness of problems and solutions in the context of business and enterprise".

Of the forty schools it inspected, Ofsted found that only four were effectively building on the foundations laid in primary schools. Its key findings were that:

  1. the extent to which schools used their curriculum to prepare pupils for work depended largely on whether school leaders considered it to be a priority. Many schools cited pressures on finance and curriculum time as reasons for not prioritising it, with some saying they saw themselves accountable only for achieving outcomes focused on examinations;
  2. due to lack of formal assessment, it was often unclear whether those schools that did provide enterprise education were having an impact on pupils' understanding of the subject;
  3. opportunities for pupils to participate in meaningful work-related learning or work experience were limited at key stage 4;
  4. in some schools, business involvement relied too heavily on the personal networks of teachers and parents and, even where schools provided time for work experience, the responsibility for finding placements was often left to the pupil;
  5. a lack of coordination across local areas has created an environment for schools and businesses that business leaders described as "chaotic", with projects such as those sponsored by local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) in an early stage of development;
  6. schools appear to be more likely to promote apprenticeships than in recent years, but parents and pupils are concerned about the quality and reputation of apprenticeships. Many schools saw vocational education as something that is only appropriate for lower-attaining pupils.

This makes for rather discouraging reading, but Ofsted has come up with a list of recommendations, including the following for schools:

  • ensure that there is a coherent programme to develop enterprise education, including the economic and business knowledge, understanding and skills of all pupils;
  • develop stronger links with business by using local networks provided by, for example, chambers of commerce and LEPs, and set clear objectives for the intended outcomes of these partnerships;
  • make effective use of specialist teachers in delivering enterprise education programmes and ensure that all teachers involved in delivery have access to appropriate professional development;
  • ensure that programmes include effective mechanisms for monitoring and assessing progress.

Helpfully, the report also lists the factors that, in Ofsted's experience, contribute to successful enterprise education in schools:

  1. a commitment to enterprise education by school leaders, with a sufficiently senior member of staff to champion it throughout the school;
  2. a common understanding of what enterprise education is, based on an agreed definition;
  3. ensuring that there is a coherent programme that embraces all pupils, that learning outcomes are clearly identified and that there is a progression in pupils' knowledge, understanding and skills;
  4. having systems in place to assess pupils' progress in enterprise education as well as to monitor the quality of provision on the subject;
  5. having an effective programme of training to develop teachers' understanding of enterprise education and their expertise in delivering it;
  6. making effective use of links with employers to ensure that the content of courses is up to date and reflects current business activity.

The report is not intended as practical guidance, so it does not direct readers to resources that will help schools implement its recommendations. However, it does offer examples of good (and not so good) practice, and contains hyperlinks to other relevant reports.

If you would like to read it, you can find it here.

If you require further information on anything covered in this briefing please contact Sam MacDonald(sam.macdonald@farrer.co.uk) or your usual contact at the firm on 020 3375 7000. Further information can be found on the Schools page of our website.

This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

© Farrer & Co LLP, December 2016