The Investor in Careers kitemark can now be studied in three parts

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The Independent Online

Schools and colleges throughout the UK interested in applying for the careers education and guidance excellence award, Investor in Careers (IiC), can now do so in three bite-sized chunks.

Investor in Careers is managed by Connexions Cornwall and Devon Ltd and is the most widely adopted and accredited kitemark standard to promote the importance of raising quality in careers education and guidance. Originally modelled on the Investors in People award, it has been successfully implemented in over 400 schools, further education colleges and approved training providers throughout the country since its launch in 1994.

Following an external evaluation by the University of Derby and feedback from schools, colleges and training providers, the award has now been developed into three manageable stages, each carrying certification.

Sue Eynon, curriculum support coordinator for Connexions Cornwall and Devon, says: "Feedback we have gathered from schools, colleges and training providers has led us to investigate ways of making it more accessible. We feel segmenting the programme into three stages will be a more effective way of engaging organisations that perhaps didn't feel able to take on the IiC process in one hit."

To complete stage one organisations must fulfil the first level of the award criteria and submit an action plan to illustrate how they will achieve the full IiC award. Success at this stage is recognised with a commitment certificate.

Stage two involves completing levels two to five of the award criteria, a review of the action plan and the first of two external assessment visits. Organisations reaching this stage receive an intermediate certificate.

Stage three involves the completion of levels six to 10 of the criteria, a final external assessment and a presentation to the Investor in Careers panel. Organisations that complete all three stages receive certification and have the right to use the Investor in Careers logo.

Eynon reports that the award usually takes between one to two years to achieve, depending on the starting point, and that it is particularly popular in schools, colleges and training providers where careers advisers are given little structure to work with. "But careers advisers do need the support from the head teacher and chair of governors to make it work. It has to be a whole institution approach," she adds.

Penair School in Truro, Cornwall has recently gained IiC status for the fourth time. Liz Donnelly, work related learning co-ordinator, is convinced both staff and pupils benefit from the programme. "The IiC process is of enormous help in the continuous development of standards of careers guidance within our school. We are constantly seeking new ways of developing enterprise and work related learning and it also encourages professional development amongst staff," she says.

"The students have definitely benefited; we now receive a lot of positive feedback from tertiary colleges when they interview our students for further and higher education courses. They find them to be very focused and aware of the paths they are intending to follow."

Eynon concludes, "In the light of recent Government legislation, it is more important than ever for practitioners to be confident of the quality of the careers education and guidance they are delivering and IiC provides links to Government legislation and guidelines - and the national framework for CEG and inspection requirements. It also supplies key evidence which can be used in self evaluation inspections such as Ofsted."

She adds that IiC supports the 14 to 19 education and skills implementation plan and the Every Child Matters white paper, as well as the wider curriculum.

"This is an important benchmark to have achieved - as well as a personal goal for me," says one careers adviser. "An excellent evidence base for Ofsted," says another.

Organisations interested in finding out more about Investor in Careers should contact Sarah Johnson at Connexions Cornwall and Devon Ltd on 01566 777672.