Ensuring your careers strategy is effective


Tami McCrone takes a look at how a new partnership is giving schools clear, practical support to help improve their careers advice services, including the resources to undertake a careers services audit.

Young people are more in need of effective careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) than ever before. The world of work is increasingly complex and young people have to make important decisions early in their secondary education. It is vital that they are equipped, through careers education (and later through careers guidance) to take on these challenges.

How to provide effective CEIAG is challenging. It is with this in mind that NFER has collaborated with ASCL, ATL and the 157 Group of colleges to develop some clear, practical, evidence-based advice in the shape of a free-to-download Careers Brief.

A brief history

Our four organisations came to this project from a shared feeling that practical support for schools and colleges – rooted in evidence and developed by people that understand how schools and colleges work – is the best way to help senior leaders (including governors) to plan and progress their programme of careers guidance.

Anyone who works with young people knows that they need to be encouraged to engage proactively in decisions about their education pathways and their journey to a career. To do this, they need the support of their school (and college), their parents, careers professionals, the local community, and employers. 

Careers Guidance and Inspiration in Schools, statutory guidance published by the Department for Education (DfE) last month, states that: “Schools should help every pupil develop high aspirations and consider a broad and ambitious range of careers. Inspiring every pupil through more real-life contacts with the world of work can help them understand where different choices can take them in the future.”

We felt that schools and colleges would value practical support in order to meet the statutory duty on careers guidance and we wanted to provide some clarity about what effective CEIAG looks like. 

Our shared view is that it will actively encourage and inspire young people to take ownership of their career plans and to consider all options, so that they are able to select the best way forward for their interests, motivations, learning styles, abilities and aspirations.

We also believe that careers should be actively led by a member of the senior leadership team and provide transparent, impartial and accessible information on:

  • The resources allocated to, and the content and timing of, CEIAG delivered to young people.

  • Local (and where appropriate national) education pathways and labour market opportunities for young people aged 14, 16 and post-18.

  • Expectations of collaborative partners, including employers, parents, other educational or training providers and careers professionals.

  • The development of employability skills.

Effective CEIAG must also support teachers to actively consider links between their subjects and future careers, and to embed careers information into lessons and subjects, actively consult with young people, parents and staff on provision to inform continuing improvement, and ensure that provision meets the quality that a dedicated CEIAG quality award – nationally validated by the Quality in Careers Standards – can bring.

The importance of ‘buy-in’

A further crucial message is the need for widespread understanding, led by senior leaders, that accepts that CEIAG is more challenging and more important for future economic prosperity than previously thought – as well as a need for widespread agreement of the principles of effective CEIAG. 

We believe that effective CEIAG, provided with extensive collaboration that always puts the interests of the young person first, will achieve the following outcomes. On an intermediate level, schools and colleges are more empowered to:

  • Deliver effective CEIAG.

  • Monitor and evaluate their CEIAG.

  • Engage with labour market information and the structure of the local economy.

  • Engage with local employers.

  • Better inform parents to guide their children.

Meanwhile, long-term careers outcomes include the following:

  • Young people proactive in taking charge of their futures.

  • Young people’s increased engagement, attendance and attainment.

  • Young people making more informed decisions.

  • Young people more ready for the world of work.

  • More young people appropriately engaged in education, employment or training.

  • An increase in the number of young people achieving wellbeing.

  • A more widespread understanding of lifelong learning.

  • An increase in the number of young people confident and resilient to cope with change.

  • More staff across education aware of their influence on young people.

  • Careers guidance embedded across the curriculum.

  • Employers proactively engaged in the world of education.

How can the Careers Brief help you?

After providing clarity about what effective CEIAG looks like and outlining the outcomes that we are trying to achieve, our Careers Brief outlines key points from the Ofsted framework, such as what inspectors should consider when judging the quality of leadership in, and management of, an institution.

For example, inspectors will consider the extent to which timely information, advice and guidance provides pupils with a good understanding of the full range of options available to assist them to make informed decisions about their next steps in training, education or employment.

The Brief also highlights the key elements of the recent DfE statutory guidance. By law schools have a legal duty to secure independent careers guidance for pupils in years 8 to 13. This must include information on the range of education or training options including Apprenticeships and other vocational pathways, be presented in an impartial manner, and promote the best interests of students.

To gain an overall picture of your institution’s current position and to identify areas for further development, we have included an audit of existing CEIAG in the Brief.

In many institutions there are a number of standalone careers-related activities taking place, but because they are not centrally coordinated, many are not recognised or are duplicated by different members of staff. 

A strategic, coordinated, whole-institution approach is required to maximise impact on young people and outcomes. The audit is separated into four categories: strategic, careers education, careers information, advice and guidance, and employer engagement. Each one has suggested activities and you can record the stage you are at (see chart, below).

Additionally, the Brief provides some useful information sources, links and resources and some pointers on how to evaluate and review progress. 

It is a good idea to quality-assure your process by self-assessment or by devising formal or informal research alongside your implementation plan. 

Investing in, and embedding, a cycle of review and revision of CEIAG will enable progression from the planning stage to impact on young people in a systematic way. You might consider a system such as the Matrix quality standard or devise your own method of self-assessment.

The Brief provides some suggestions for establishing the focus of your research and how to carry it out and provides some links to further NFER resources to help you gather and collate data on the impact your careers guidance is having on your young people.

  • Tami McCrone is a research director with NFER.

Further information
  • Download the Careers Brief, entitled Careers Engagement: A good practice brief for leaders of schools and colleges, free of charge at www.nfer.ac.uk/as2a, where you will also find a Word version of the audit tool. Email your feedback to t.mccrone@nfer.ac.uk
  • For DfE statutory guidance, Careers Guidance and Inspiration in Schools, visit http://bit.ly/1f7I2WR


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