Good Career Guidance

Good career guidance is critical if young people are to raise their aspirations and capitalise on the opportunities available to them. We commissioned Sir John Holman to research what pragmatic actions could improve career guidance in secondary schools.

Teacher and students - good career guidance
Student receiving one to one career guidance
Students in classroom receiving career guidance from teacher

We undertook international visits, reviewed best practice in the UK and studied available literature to formulate our eight benchmarks of good career guidance.

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Good career guidance has never been more important. Changes in technology and in the labour market mean that increasing numbers of jobs require specific education and training. This has produced new vocational options which, at present, are not well understood by many young people or their teachers. Furthermore, the decision to go to university now means a major financial commitment, rather than being a safe default choice. Yet, despite its importance, career guidance in English schools has often been criticised for being inadequate and patchy – most recently by Ofsted in their September 2013 report.

Against this background, in 2013 Gatsby commissioned Sir John Holman - Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the University of York, senior education adviser and former headteacher - with setting out what career guidance in England would be like were it good.

Through international visits, analysis of good practice in English independent schools and a comprehensive review of current literature, Sir John developed eight benchmarks that identify different dimensions of good career guidance. Then, by surveying a sample of English schools to see how they measure up against the benchmarks and commissioning PwC to identify the costs of implementing the benchmarks in schools across England, Sir John made ten recommendations on how to improve the career guidance system.

Sir John’s report sets out the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors that influence career guidance: ‘push’ factors are school-based while ‘pull’ factors come from employers. Push and pull complement each other, and the report concludes that employer-pull is as important as school-push. It is clear that there is no single ‘magic bullet’ for good career guidance: it is about doing a number of things, identified in the benchmarks, consistently and well.

In order to do things consistently and well, the ten recommendations call upon schools, employers, the government and other bodies to collaborate so that pupils are provided with career guidance to the level of the benchmarks. Through this collaboration, headteachers and governors can put in place a career guidance system that measures up to best practice, helping to set up their pupils not only for the rest of their education but for the rest of their lives.