Careers provision: Schools make steady progress towards Gatsby Benchmarks

Written by: SecEd | Published:
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Increasing numbers of schools are achieving more of the Gatsby Benchmarks – the gold standard for effective careers provision.

While not statutory, the eight benchmarks are based on research by the charitable Gatsby Foundation and form part of the government’s 2017 Careers Strategy. They are also built into the Department for Education’s statutory guidance for schools (2018).

In its annual State of the Nation report, the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) – the government body set up in 2015 to help link schools and colleges to employers – reports that 37 per cent of schools and colleges are now meeting at least half of the benchmarks. This is up from 20 per cent in 2018.

Furthermore, seven per cent are meeting seven or all eight, up from two per cent last year. A total of 99 schools and colleges have achieved all eight, compared to 21 in 2018.

The benchmarks are:

  • A stable careers programme.
  • Learning from career and labour market information.
  • Addressing the needs of each pupil.
  • Linking curriculum learning to careers.
  • Encounters with employers and employees.
  • Experiences of workplaces.
  • Encounters with further and higher education.
  • Personal guidance.

The State of the Nation report highlights that more than half of schools (56 per cent) are meeting Benchmark 5 and offering encounters with employers and employees – considered one of the most crucial aspects of effective careers provision.

Benchmarks 2 and 6 are being offered by almost half of schools (49 per cent), while 59 per cent of schools are meeting the requirements for Benchmark 8.

Progress towards the benchmarks is measured using an online self-evaluation tool called Compass. However, the average number of benchmarks being met across all the schools that have completed the evaluation is just three out of the eight.

The report states: “There is still some way to go before all England’s schools and colleges provide career guidance that is fully in line with Gatsby Benchmarks. Schools and colleges continue to need support through resources, training and networks to achieve the benchmarks. However, at the end of the first year of implementing the Careers Strategy, the signs of progress are encouraging.”

Commenting on the report, Claudia Harris, chief of the CEC, said: “We know that regular interactions with employers have a significant long-term impact on young people. They’re less likely to be unemployed, likely to earn more, and get better grades. We are delighted with the progress to date and want to see things continue to improve in the years ahead.”

The government’s Careers Strategy requires that all schools have in place a careers leader whose duty it is to work towards the Gatsby Benchmarks. There is a range of resources and support for careers leaders available on the CEC website.

Elsewhere, 20 new Careers Hubs have been launched this term, doubling the number now in existence. A Careers Hub is a group of between 20 and 40 secondary schools and colleges located in the same area and which work together to deliver the Gatsby Benchmarks. The initiative is being coordinated by the CEC.


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