café career magazine
in touch
Career-learning home page
Magazine - articles and activities Underpinning - basic ideas for the work
Memory - key articles archive Moving on

LiRRiC proposals to the QCA on psd

uploaded 14th November 2006

careers education

Bill Law

This article sets out serious concerns for young people and for how we try to help them.  Some of it is written by Gordon Brown, some by David Cameron. Also, David Dimbleby, John Humphrys, Anita Roddick get a look in. As do David Starkey and Jacqueline Wilson.  Not to forget the usual suspects: an archbishop, a baroness, a professor of education, a clinical psychologist, a government adviser, a head of service. And, of course, research institutes and quangos.  You may be relieved to hear that you’ll hear, as well, from parents, teachers, students and former students. Not a bad line-up.

The QCA is currently considering proposals that work on their concerns - and, pretty much, in their terms:

> a coherent curriculum, for whole persons, in one life;
> with personal-and-social well-being at its heart;
> learned in school, and used in life;
> celebrating standards, but insisting on relevance;
> drawing on experience, as well as
> making more impact, and making it with smaller teams
> doing what only curriculum can do.

The proposals take careers education off the edge of timetable and locates it at the heart of curriculum.  They are called ‘LiRRiC - life role relevance in curriculum’.  And they are available in The Café now. 

page numbers refer to related ideas in
life role relevance in curriculum




a life-role calls on a whole person - still breathing, still thinking, still feeling... and still socially involved (p.3)

It’s thirty years since prime minister Callaghan kicked open the door to the secret garden of the curriculum.  And, only now, are we getting the issues into useful order.  Everybody and his uncle has something to say... all sides of politics... and classroom teachers and their professors.... and families and their young.  All have their say here – talking, among other things, about whether curriculum has become the great twenty-first-century turn-off, why pub talk might be as useful as Shakespeare, and how we get useful reform on a shoestring.

getting to grips with the issues.  There’s no shortage of informed opinion – all with strong ‘pros’ and robust ‘cons’.  Which gives us a lot of interesting batting - back and forth. Dealing with issues like these bids goodbye to easy answers. Thirty are listed below. Busy? Think about the odd numbers today, but don't forget the evens tomorrow. Every one is worth as much thinking time as you can give it.

Thirty years of changing curriculum hasn't earned careers education much in the way of headlines. In the last month-or-so it has given careers education two - maybe three.  But how we resolve all thirty will largely determine what happens to psd - and, therefore, to careers education. 

We’ll come back to why that is so - and what careers educators can do about it - later.  But first, who is saying what?

there has never been a greater need for parents, consumers, believers, neighbours, citizens and workers to know what is going on - and what they can usefully do about it (p.40)
too few young people make the link between careers-education-and-guidance and decisions about their future. National Foundation for Education Research

with no transfer of learning from the classroom then, however well they perform in tests and assessments, what we are doing is just not working (p.24)


students can do something about the environment as activist, family member and householder - as well as worker and consumer (p.27)

Obesity reduces the number able to join the services - only a third of 16 year-olds pass the body-mass index. National Audit Office
Governments use education to create good little consumer-producers, not to set minds free.  Oliver James
Citizenship is in big trouble.  It is seen by teachers as a pain in the arse.  They don't know how to tackle it.  David Dimbleby
Schools should crack down on ‘pimp culture’, so boys do not grow into kerb crawlers.  Some say kids shouldn’t learn about this, but it’s essential. Anita Roddick
action may depend on who students pay attention to - stereotypes are culturally acquired - they are psd's greatest challenge (p.26)
Boys need greater use of computers, more sport and community service - to encourage discipline and personal responsibility. Gordon Brown
The system is anxiety driven.  Its pressure is for accountability.  Teenagers have little freedom from major public testing. Rowan Williams

today's curriculum will serve our children for today, and perhaps tomorrow, but not for a life time - learning-how-to-learn will (p.29)



things are moving on in how friendships are formed, families are organised, ethnicities are cherished, work is experienced and citizenship is engaged (p.29)



we need curriculum to be a starting pistol rather than finishing line (p.20)

We have put children into an academic straitjacket from a very early age – restricting their creativity and their childhood. Michael Murpugo

Too much focus on academic achievement can inhibit personal-and-social development.

Institute for Public Policy Research

Our school seemed to lose its marbles.  For weeks it taught nothing but SATS.  Just as citizenship seemed like a good idea, it was erased. parent
Children need what we have always needed – real play, first-hand experience of the world they live in, and real interaction with adults. Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson, and others
The mental health of children is being compromised - a key factor in the rise of substance abuse, violence and self harm among our young people. Rowan Williams
GCSEs are now a turn off, and achieving high grades has become anti-educational - the syllabus should be the minimum starting point for the process of learning. teacher
What’s the point of having a teacher - if not to tell you what the facts are? David Starkey
LiRRiC is structured in a way which, far from undermining standards, actually relies on them (p.3)
We are terrified that good English might turn the kids off.  So, ‘Is this a dagger that I see before me’ becomes ‘Ooh! Would you look at that!’.  John Humphrys
We’ve done traditional qualifications; we want something more relevant - that will stimulate our students. teacher

It may come as a bit of a surprise to some students, but the curriculum really can help you to work out what to in your life (p.20)

For too long young people have had vested interests, boring them to tears.  Now they shrug their shoulders - and walk away. Simon Jenkins

The government’s recognises that young people are not engaged by education.  We need to look at why.

Nuffield Review of 14-19 Education

transfer means the classroom reminds students of their lives - so that their lives remind them of the classroom (p.24


we are competing for their attention; and we can make no assumptions that we will get it (p.33)


from a young person's point of view getting qualified can feel like being made to jump through other people's hoops (p.32)


It’s about being brave enough to acknowledge that children are fighting more battles than we did.  And we have to join the fight.

Head of the Children’s  Society


If you don’t give kids anything more attractive than the street, then they'll choose the street. 

David Cameron


Schools should stay open later - to ensure every pupil is give two hours of extra-curricular activities a week.

Institute for Public Policy Research


Young people want to know that it is their world and there are things they can do with it. 

David Dimbleby


There's no sense of community any more, not much chance to communicate across different parts of society - most people stick to the group they know.

young person

LiRRiC argues the value of students meeting people the-likes-of-whom they've never met before (p.26)

The new science course is interesting - like writing on testing on animals, giving our views, and arguing the points.


good academics can fire-up interest, help people find what they need to know, and get that knowledge into useful order - not the whole of psd, but a pretty good start (p.2)

The new approach encourages debate, but this is more suitable for the pub than the classroom.

Mary Warnock


We’re used to protecting our turf, working in narrow channels.  But if you get a community working together, performance improves.

adviser to government on public-service management

other-than-specialist helpers, with other-than-professional backgrounds, helping on other-than-institutional bases, needs other-than-conventional managers (p.36)


mentoring draws in real experience of local life - like parents in a position to take an interest in the education of other people's children (p.35)


There should be more mentoring of younger boys by teenagers – if they are to be able to play their part as citizens, employees and future fathers.

Gordon Brown


If you ask yourself whose doing the best work at combating drug abuse and truancy, the answer is often voluntary bodies.

David Cameron


We rarely ask fundamental question about the aims of education.  We must treat the roots of alienation, rather than just its symptoms.

Richard Pring

we need a strategy which brings together two aspects of curriculum - without standards learning is shaky, without relevance it is futile (p.3)

We are fighting decades and decades of narrow thinking.  It’s frightening to step out of your traditional role and say 'I'm going to pitch in here’.

adviser to government on public-service management

opening doors changing minds.  Nobody mentions institutional ‘missions’, personal ‘visions’ or optimistic ‘targets’. We used to hear more from this threesome.   All were aspirational, and there was nothing wrong with that.  But the thirty issues pose questions that must be answered in different terms. They move us on - from romantic aspiration, to pragmatic realisation:

1.            do we know what’s going on?
2.            can we explain what’s going wrong?
3.            how can we make things go better?

Hard questions call for a mature debate.  You could usefully work through each of the three on any of the thirty. You could do that with your colleagues, your students, their families and your community partners.   The LiRRiC monograph (below) will help you.

The monograph is not a defence of conventional careers education.  But it sees careers education as involved in the issues: if our work is losing ground it is because of the ways in which policy makers have sought to resolve them. And, until now, they seem not have seen careers education as a promising factor in that search. 

But things are changing. The curriculum door has been open for some time. And, now, the policy door is ajar. A chance to talk. But it will call for some adjustment in our thinking.  Habit-of-mind has never been useful in dealing with change.

effective integration sets up well-targeted, well-timed, appropriately-resourced and sustainably-managed learning projects (p.22)



when our children can no longer be surprised, or surprise us - that is when we should start to worry (p.39)

The policy document Youth Matters frames the future of psd in curriculum.  It argues that our students’ heightened awareness of the pressures on contemporary calls for new thinking. They will need more than psd set up as separate subjects.  Subject-bound timetables fragment already seriously fragmented lives. They compartmentalise what students most need to connect. 

What they learn in psd - not least in careers education - is perpetually interrupted by other influences on their lives, other images of the way of looking at things and other voices to heed. A subject-bound timetable can't clear enough and space or find enough time to deal with that. And they need time - to take one thing with another, make coherent and sustainable sense of it, check it out, try it out, and get it embedded into their lives - so that when the time comes they will actually be able to use it. Maintaining subject boundaries doesn't enable that process, it hinders it.

ethnic allegiances, religious memberships, social solidarities and gay communities - the internet is massively expanding the opportunities for developing such groups - and, for good and ill, the influence they can exert (p.34)

And the open policy door? The subtext in Youth Matters is that there are severe limits to what any government can do about what is happening in our young people's lives.  It is looking to us for the new thinking. A recurring phrase in Youth Matters is 'go local!'. Policy is looking to local partnerships - between agencies commissioned by children’s trusts, in neighbourhoods, and among their their schools-or colleges.  It makes curriculum critical to the success of Youth Matters (we are looking at a serious re-working of the relationship between careers education and guidance).  Most of what people need to know about the way things are now can only be learned in curriculum. LiRRiC responds to Youth Matters, and Youth Matters needs LiRRiC.

Can we do it?  Yes, but not while clinging to the edge of timetable.

LiRRiC is not a by-way, not a marginal addition and certainly not an optional supplement to curriculum - it is integral to any adequate conception of a modern curriculum (p.20)

You are in the magazine section of
The Career-learning Café
in touch


tell a colleague: cut and paste
and e-mail.

back to the beginning
download pdf of the LiRRiC proposals
examine implications for careers education

come back to

to get on the Café's free up-date list e-mail 'yes'

Return to the top
Career-learning home page Magazine - articles and activities Underpinning - basic ideas for the work Memory - key articles archive Moving on