In our ‘meet your peers’ series, we highlight careers leaders from schools and colleges around the country, to enable the sharing of perspectives, challenges, opportunities and solutions in careers leadership.
Rowena Kidd, deputy headteacher and career lead, Stretford High School, Manchester
How and why did you become a careers leader?
At my school, we realised that the careers leader role needed to be performed by someone on the senior leadership team, if we wanted to embed careers into the whole school curriculum and develop a robust careers programme. I feel passionately about the importance of careers guidance and the impact it can have on supporting our young people, and was delighted to take on this role.
As well as being deputy head, I teach art and photography and line-manage maths and PHSE. I oversee whole-school data, target setting and building the school timetable, plus options. I am also the curriculum lead and teaching and learning lead.
Prior to becoming a teacher, I ran my own business for 12 years, so I have a keen interest in linking business and career pathways to our school. As lead for curriculum and the timetable, I was able to create a slot to allow standalone careers lessons for all our students throughout key stages 3 and 4. Once we had this structure, we could start to build a meaningful programme.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me is likely to be the same for all career leaders out there: ‘squeezing in’ all the demands of careers into a very tight schedule. Typically, I am spinning plates.
To give you an example of a recent Friday, I sent four or five emails throughout the day to get contacts to commit to our career market and to start to book in work-experience places for year 10. I had a quick meeting with student services to check the booklets were ready for year 10 work experience and went through the year 11 college application dates.
I read through the hundreds of emails we get as career leads to check I wasn’t missing an opportunity for our students, and noticed a STEM event that I’d booked for us. I met with my career ambassadors to ask them to improve the career noticeboard for me and I posted a useful link about apprenticeships on our LinkedIn alumni account.
I love making links with professionals and businesses for the school. It is very time consuming, and you have to be patient, but it really pays off
What personal qualities do you feel you need to make a good careers leader?
A genuine interest in improving the knowledge our young people have about the ever-changing jobs market and future careers and a passion for getting out there and making links for the school.
For us, in Manchester, it’s all about digital technology and construction, so I have added more computer science lessons to the curriculum and we take our students to a lot of digital roadshows, especially ones aimed at female students.
We have also teamed up with local architects and the Stephen Lawrence Foundation to run projects around construction, in our careers lessons. This helps bring careers to life and makes them relevant, which is so important.
Which of the Gatsby Benchmarks is proving the most challenging?
Benchmark 4 (linking curriculum learning to careers), which I think will be the case for a lot of schools. As career leads, we can do a lot, but you need everybody in the school to help with benchmark 4 in order to get that meaningful curriculum content delivered by external professionals.
At my school, the maths department puts on a fantastic maths morning with lots of professionals who use maths in their everyday jobs. Other faculties saw the success and now want a slice of the action – and so a movement is born.
What is the most rewarding thing about your role?
I love making links with professionals and businesses for the school. It is very time consuming, and you have to be patient, but it really pays off.
And which is the most demanding?
Work experience is every career leader’s nightmare! You have to get the whole year group out and it is so hard finding places. I aim to support our students in getting a placement which interests them, but you can’t always find the businesses that are willing to make the investment in time.
Work experience is every career leader’s nightmare! You have to get the whole year group out and it is so hard finding places
What impact do you feel you are having in your school?
The biggest impact, and the most rewarding, has been around our NEET (not in employment, education or training) figures, which are below the national average. I feel students are better prepared when they leave us; they know which career area they would like to go into and so get themselves on the correct further educational courses. This positive start is invaluable.
Do you have one tip for other careers leaders from your experiences so far?
Don’t get overwhelmed, just tackle one or two things and do them well (I know this is easier said than done, though). Good luck, it really is a fantastic role.