I hate to be the Debbie Downer on the rainless parade of the careers and education firmament but a few weeks on from Careers Week and several months after the launch of the new Careers Strategy and still radio silence. Both literally and metaphorically.
It’s a weird situation. I don’t believe that I am the only person who gives a shit, far from it, nor do I believe that I’m uniquely qualified to be grousing about it. However, nature abhors a vacuum and in my seeking to fill the one that exists in the middle of the media coverage of these issues it’s become quite clear that still no one really cares enough to report it.
I’ve contacted so many news outlets, local and national papers, educational journals to try and highlight the issues and everyone makes agreeable noises if I’m lucky enough to actually speak to anyone and then nothing. It’s as if the million students who took part in the Careers Week activities are not to be acknowledged. I see the occasional good news piece where some school might have jerry-rigged a gimmicky photo-opp to garner fawning coverage from a local paper, you know the kind of thing – an actual path is decorated with crudely drawn signs with the names of careers on to represent a metaphorical career path, cue gurning children and dead-eyed smiles from Headteachers who frankly know better. And that gets coverage. But heaven forefend anyone who should try and highlight the real issues, sure we skirt around it – the papers are filled with the North/South divide, university as the great social mobilizer and so on but no one is covering the patient zero in this situation. It’s the media equivalent of covering the Olympics from just outside the stadium. We all know what’s happening but all reportage is obfuscated.
My pet theory, rightly or wrongly is that the media is unwilling to be seen to be piling on to an already overburdened and groaning education system that is facing an apocalyptic funding crisis and historic levels of teacher shortage (T minus 47,000 at the latest count.) Where the misunderstanding seems to come is in the notion that attacking a broken system is in itself an attack on the people in that system. A distinction I had to make in a short lived late night, unprovoked Twitter spat with one of the leading lights in the Careers firmament. My issue has never been with those schools and teachers who are dedicated to trying to change what is done but rather in those who are unwilling to accept there is an issue to begin with. The incontrovertible evidence is there for all to see, careers and academic advice in this country is done poorly, too often and by too many schools and of that cohort many are only interested in box ticking filigree rather than real change.
For a practical real world example, a school that forms part of one of the worst performing MATs in the country, with a largely appalling track record in most aspects of what it’s been tasked with doing initially embraced the idea of having a discussion about bringing me in to look at what might be done to bolster their offering and meet their new statutory requirements. That conversation never happened however and when I contacted them again, despite not having made any actual changes, I was told they are not ‘looking to review their careers strategy currently’. Like it was a choice. But when I try and speak to even local news outlets about this kind of thing they instead run endless articles about hedgehog sanctuaries or dogs that look like their owners.
So I will keep on fighting but with each passing day it is harder and harder to feel like I’m at the vanguard of some genuine lasting change and more and more like I’m a nuisance caller pissing into the wind. This is my heartfelt hope, that anyone who reads this, be you student or parent that you start making noise and demanding the equality of opportunity, the best and most current advice available to help make sense of the future, what to do, how to do it and when to then maybe shout, ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.’ (and then reblog or retweet or share – you know…)