Good Career Guidance: The First Ten Years

21 October 2022 Lesley Thain

In the decade since David Sainsbury first asked Sir John Holman to carry out a programme of international research and examine best practice in order to develop a framework which describes what world class careers education should look like, we have seen; the publication of our Good Career Guidance report in 2014, the Gatsby Benchmarks adopted as the cornerstone of the government’s careers strategy for England in 2017, and now more than 3 million young people a year are benefiting from the stability our work in career guidance has delivered.

Good Career Guidance: The First Ten Years

Prior to the adoption of the Benchmarks, there was widespread recognition that careers education in England was patchy. Schools and colleges were tasked with providing career guidance and whilst there were pockets of excellent practice there was no consistent guidance as to how to do so. The Benchmarks have provided schools and colleges with a framework and consistent language that supports them to systematically improve their careers provision and have a positive impact on student outcomes. It’s the benefits of having this consistent approach that we aspire to see upheld for the next ten years.

Summing up the key message of the Good Career Guidance report in 2014, Sir John Holman said:

There is no single ‘magic bullet’ in career guidance. It is about doing a number of things – identified in the Benchmarks – consistently and well.

Over and above the Benchmarks, Good Career Guidance identified several key levers for success, including:

  • a dedicated Careers Leader;
  • Senior Leader buy-in; and
  • local coordination (now performed by Careers Hubs).

Where these levers have been successfully implemented, Benchmark achievement has demonstrably accelerated. In 2021/22, schools and colleges in Careers Hubs for four years achieved an average of 5.6 benchmarks compared to 2.9 for those outside of the CEC network. The impact of the Benchmarks is strongest for those most in need: students in the most disadvantaged schools that meet all of the Benchmarks have a 20% reduction in NEET outcomes compared to those who do not meet any.  When a school and college has a dedicated Careers Leader in place, the more time that person can spend focused on careers, the more Benchmarks the institution will reach. We also know that in institutions where senior leaders allocate more time and resource to the Careers Leader, and where the Careers Leader is trained, we see higher Benchmark performance.

Gatsby’s work in careers has coincided with our endeavours in the overhaul of the technical education system:

  • supporting the development of T-Levels
  • Higher Technical Qualifications
  • the roll-out of Institutes of Technology

We worked closely with the sector to establish how the Benchmarks can be applied during prolonged times of virtual learning during the pandemic. We launched our national campaign for parents, Talking Futures, to support them to have meaningful career conversations with their children.

Much has happened in the intervening years since we set out to identify what good should like for career guidance in this country. As we look ahead to the next ten years of good career guidance in England, we are keen to ascertain if there are any areas of refinement or other opportunities that Gatsby could support that will enable the stability offered by the Gatsby Benchmark framework to endure. Our plan is to engage with partners and colleagues across the education and careers sectors from early 2023 so that:

  • understanding of the implementation of the Benchmarks across the country grows even further;
  • innovations in practice are explored; and
  • the most common challenges faced by schools and colleges are unpicked.

We plan to combine this with reflecting on research and evidence from overseas that has emerged since the publication of Good Career Guidance, including in the countries visited as part of the original report, as well as looking at organisations overseas which have chosen to adopt the Benchmarks for their own national contexts.

Ryan Gibson, Senior Advisor to Gatsby, said:

“The Gatsby Benchmarks have transformed careers education in England. Through my work leading the original Gatsby pilot in the North-East and my most recent role leading careers education across a large national multi-academy trust, I have seen first-hand the impact that the Benchmarks have had on both career outcomes for young people and the development of professional practice. There is much to be learnt from what schools, colleges and regions across the country have achieved, including exploring innovations in practice and the challenges faced. I look forward to supporting Gatsby with their work in ensuring the Benchmarks remain at the forefront of education, the solid foundation upon which our careers system is built, and that they continue to serve schools and colleges well for the next decade and beyond.”

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Good Career Guidance: The First Ten Years