Career signpost

Building careers into a multi-academy trust framework

We are a large multi-academy trust with 42 academies, including 32 secondaries, six primaries, three alternative provision schools, and one special school. These schools are based across the country, from Norwich and Ipswich to Birmingham and Stoke, via Liverpool, Grimsby, and the Isle of Wight. This sheer variety means we have had to develop an approach to careers education which is high-quality and consistent, but also able to flex according to local challenges and opportunities.

Expanding networks

A key factor that underpins our careers framework is our willingness to work closely with experts and listen to the excellent advice already out there for educational leaders. 

When considering post-16 options, for example, we have adopted several rigorous and nationally recognised benchmarks to guide our work. All academies are compliant with the provider access policy, released in January 2023, raising awareness of all post-16 options and pathways, while also seeking to meet the eight Gatsby Benchmarks. This also translates to our desire to make sure every school strives to hold tried and tested awards, including the Quality in Career Standard (QICS) and Career Mark for primaries. To go alongside these accreditations, each academy is a member of their local Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) Career HUB and can access support via their assigned enterprise co-ordinator and enterprise advisor.

This sentiment also underpins our existing platforms with the likes of Speakers for Schools and Unifrog. Many of our schools have inspirational talks and virtual work experience thanks to Speakers for Schools and students can compare university courses, apprenticeships, and FE courses with Unifrog. This helps to ensure every OAT student has access to the same high-quality career advice, and our work with Speakers for Schools has also seen high-profile speakers – such as former Prime Minister David Cameron, and former Vice Chairman of Arsenal FC David Dein – sharing their insights with our students.

Driving aspirations 

We have always wanted to make sure that the discussion of careers is never just confined to a singular day in an academic year. Supported by OAT’s central team, each academy celebrates key dates in the careers calendar, such as National Careers Week, National Apprenticeship Week, and Green Careers Week, and they are also empowered to set up their own careers events to complement this. All this is supported by the work of OAT’s central marketing team, who provide our schools with engaging posters and collateral to help drive interest in careers. 

To develop this, and ensure consistency for all our students, we have developed several central initiatives to provide further opportunities. For those that are seeking to take the step into higher education, for example, our OAT Oxbridge Scholars programme supports learners of all backgrounds with the application process, as well as facilitating university and college visits on open days. 

More broadly, the OAT Futures website contains careers inspiration for our young people. On the site, there are currently 85 films which showcase different careers and how they can be accessed, including insights into the English Heritage Trust and renewable energy leader Drax Global. The platform has now been used by more than 3,400 users and features a number of inspiring Ormiston alumni.

Delivering experiences

We have developed a number of virtual work experience opportunities for students, alongside the real-world placements which are so crucial.  We are proud of the work that we do with our partners to deliver work experience programmes throughout the year. For example, our scheme with PR and public affairs agency PLMR provides some of our lower sixth form students with the opportunity to undertake several days of work experience in London. Most of our schools are outside the big urban areas, meaning these sorts of opportunities are more limited within our students’ local context.  Because PLMR covers the cost of travel to London and accommodation once there, economic barriers to access are removed. PLMR creates a cohesive and meaningful programme, including access to cultural experiences, like theatre trips. This adds significantly to what students can include in their personal statements and applications to universities.

Additionally, our work with Complete Careers – the licensed awarding body for Quality and Careers Standard and primary Career Mark – is already helping to highlight the opportunities available to students with businesses and organisations around them, considering local labour market information, developing employability skills and the skills employers are searching for, recognising changes for the future of the world of work and its implications for learners.

This direct work with employers has been seen to brilliant effect on the Isle of Wight. Cowes Enterprise College’s Maritime Curriculum incorporates the island’s rich seafaring heritage into every aspect of school life, and there is a strong focus on careers throughout. The award-winning scheme also sees local employers visit the school and outline the exciting futures available to students. 

The future

The connections we have developed have provided a strong foundation for OAT’s careers advice. In a rapidly changing jobs and education landscape, it has never been more important to ensure all our students have the tools and knowledge to access and follow the path that is best for them. 

As the jobs market evolves, so will we. We are currently in the process of facilitating a network of enterprise advisors within OAT, so that academies can learn from each other and share expertise, and we are also working with the Career and Enterprise Company to deliver peer to peer reviews which will further ensure high-quality, consistent support is available across our family of schools. To go alongside this, and to make sure we are using the best possible data to continually update our approach, we will be taking strides to monitor student progress and track destinations. 

Above all, we are confident that through this mixture of nationally recognised schemes, innovative partnerships, and large number of trust-wide initiatives, we can help to boost learner aspirations across the country and drive the social mobility that is so central to OAT’s vision and values. 

By Rachel McCarthy

Rachel McCarthy is National Lead Practitioner for Enrichment (Careers and Eco-trust) for Ormiston Academies Trust.

Original source

Article first published on the Speakers for Schools website on 13 February 2024.