Curriculum Planning Design

Curriculum Planning and Design

Transition Points and Careers Guidance

At Key Stage 4 and post-16, a school’s curriculum planning will depend partly on its decisions about which qualifications to offer and pupils’ decisions about which courses to take.

Schools need to prioritise offering qualifications and progression pathways suitable for their pupils. Well-informed Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) staff then need to be available to assist each pupil in deciding the best way forward at each stage.

Supporting decision-making at transition points

Giving pupils the information and support they need to understand a transition process can minimise any disruption and anxiety they might feel. Staff should:

  • know about the structure and content of the courses pupils might follow;
  • ensure pupils have a clear understanding about where they currently stand and exactly what decisions are open to them;
  • have details about each pupil’s progress and performance in the curriculum to date; and
  • be aware of any pastoral matters, special educational needs or other information relevant to pupils’ choices.

Schools could also consider:

  • continuity in CEIAG, with staff supporting pupils they know well;
  • using personal targets to make pupils more aware of their own progress;
  • whether CEIAG provision is to be discretely timetabled, delivered within form periods or delivered in another way;
  • making time for meaningful one-to-one interviews at transition points; and
  • developing transition plans for pupils with statements of SLD/PMLD with the involvement of parents, social services and health providers, as appropriate (see the Bamford Action Plan (2012–2015).

Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG)

For careers guidance to be effective, it must be delivered by teachers who have had opportunities, time and training to develop the necessary knowledge base and skills. Given the pace of change, these teachers need to have regular staff development opportunities so they can provide accurate, relevant, up-to-date advice.

Factors to consider when planning for CEIAG provision include:

  • basing advice on knowledge about course content and progression through qualifications (for example, see the UCAS page What are my options?), taking into account:
    • skills requirements;
    • the nature of the assessment for each qualification;
    • the proportion of course time allocated to practical, vocational and/or work-based learning;
    • possible progression routes and associated requirements; and
    • higher education providers’ admissions policies and their acceptance of different post-16 qualifications;
  • making information about options available to pupils and parents in time for them to explore different pathways;
  • referring to information about the local and national labour market and likely career opportunities in specific skills areas, including areas where there is likely to be a surplus or shortage of skills and specific levels of qualification;
  • partnership with local education and training providers;
  • well-planned work-based learning opportunities;
  • helping pupils to avoid subject or qualification choices that narrow career pathways;
  • countering unrealistic expectations; and
  • helping to prepare pupils for a culture of flexible employment and lifelong learning.

Considerations for broad and balanced curricular provision post-16

To ease transition into higher education or employment at age 18, schools should offer a curriculum that:

  • is broad and engaging;
  • matches pupils’ needs and preferences, for example for more academic or occupational routes;
  • is structured to provide balance; and
  • keeps a range of career pathways open.

Schools may also wish to:

  • review any factors that might improve retention during Year 13 and 14, including:
  • the curriculum they offer;
  • current job market information;  
  • information about career opportunities in important skills areas; and
  • projections about what jobs will be available in the future (for example, making pupils aware of the expected decline in the number of jobs that require qualifications only up to Level 2/GCSE and the economic implications of this);
  • use buddy and mentor systems to prepare pupils for transition to post-16;
  • provide an induction at the start of subject courses; and
  • ensure that pupils have staff points of contact, allowing time for individual meetings.

Taking into account estimates of future employment demand in Northern Ireland, it’s important to encourage more pupils to choose routes that lead to skills and qualifications at post-16 and beyond Level 3 (equivalent to GCE A level). In particular, demand for technical qualifications is set to increase, with projected growth in STEM-based employment for those with appropriate qualifications. See for example the World Economic Forum The Future of Jobs Report 2018, the Matrix Digital ICT Report 2016: Foresight and Horizon Scanning and the Ulster University Northern Ireland 2017 Skills Barometer summary report.

Questions for curriculum planners

  • How do you manage careers advice and guidance in your school?
  • What mix of specialist backgrounds are CEIAG staff drawn from?
  • Is this broadly representative of the whole curriculum, or are there gaps in staff expertise?
  • What staff development and training are available for CEIAG staff?
  • What input into curriculum decisions does the CEIAG team have?
  • In terms of routes to further study, what links does the school maintain with relevant agencies and other providers?
  • How does your school prepare pupils for transition points?
  • How does the school evaluate the effectiveness of pupil transition from phase to phase?
  • What do you do to prepare pupils to make successful applications and do well in interviews?
  • How do you monitor, evaluate and review your CEAIG provision and its impact?