New national data reinforces the impact of the Gatsby Benchmarks on young people’s futures

13 March 2024 Rob Cremona

Last week, newly-published data from the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) revealed that schools’ and colleges’ national performance against the Gatsby Benchmarks for good career guidance has more than doubled in the last five years. Alongside a robust dataset from young people and employers, this shows a continuing trend towards broad, structured and inclusive career guidance programmes which are helping young people feel better prepared for their futures.

New national data reinforces the impact of the Gatsby Benchmarks on young people’s futures

The CEC’s Now and Next report, published to coincide with the start of National Careers Week, is based on data up to the 2022-23 academic year, which includes:

This is presented alongside Department for Education data on post-16 and post-18 destinations, Youth Employment UK’s mass survey data from young people in 2023 and University College London’s Millenium Skills Survey.

Taken together, these data present a compelling picture: for a school or college to achieve all eight Gatsby Benchmarks reduces by 8% the likelihood of their students becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) at age 16 and age 18. This positive link has been confirmed at post-18 level for the first time, and use of the UCL Millenium Cohort Study has bolstered the evidence of the impact of careers on post-16 transitions, complementing an existing analysis of post-16 destinations in 2021 using school-level administrative data.

By the end of the 2022-23 academic year, over 90% of schools and colleges were using the online Compass tool to measure and develop their provision against the Gatsby Benchmarks. Average achievement of the Benchmarks now stands at 5.5 out of 8 – more than doubling from 2.1 just five years ago. Investment in support for schools and colleges continues to have an impact – institutions in Careers Hubs achieve more Benchmarks on average, even if they have only been part of a Hub for a year (4.8 Benchmarks compared with 3.2 for those not in a Hub) and those in Hubs for the longest are the highest performing (6 out of 8 Benchmarks). Having a trained Careers Leader is also associated with higher Benchmark scores, and over 3,000 have completed fully funded training.

“A vision of modern careers education that is broad, structured and inclusive has taken hold”
The Careers & Enterprise Company

The rollout of the Future Skills Questionnaire continues, with data now available from over 100,000 young people on their career readiness, skills, and knowledge. Overall career readiness scores improve by 21 percentage points between Year 7 and Year 11. For the first time, we can also compare a cohort’s scores directly from one year to the next year, with career readiness improving by 7 percentage points on average between academic years for those in every year group. Understanding of individual options is also improving as students progress through education, with awareness of apprenticeships doubling and understanding of T-levels quadrupling between Year 7 and Year 11.

Youth Employment UK’s Youth Voice Census also demonstrates that young people’s experiences are improving, with an increased number of students reporting access to all types of careers experiences in 2023 compared to the previous year. There was also a 7 percentage point rise in those who rated their experience of careers education positively.

While the CEC has recognised the hugely encouraging improvement in career guidance, it has identified five areas where efforts should be redoubled. These include: ensuring an equitable approach which meets the needs of every young person, and how to capitalise on the growing awareness and interest to ensure that this is reflected in numbers of students taking technical education options. This mirrors Gatsby’s experience from our Good Career Guidance: The Next Ten Years programme. We have been taking stock of the endorsement of the Gatsby Benchmarks framework by stakeholders (including over 1,200 who responded to an open consultation) while also hearing from practitioners about their innovations and challenges, and ideas for improvement. We have listened to their appeals to focus on stability rather than wholesale change, and we are considering how the evidence supports refinements to the Benchmarks that will ensure even greater impact on young people for the next decade.

Congratulations to everyone in the careers guidance sector for contributing to this compelling evidence of the growing quality, coverage and effectiveness of career guidance which is improving outcomes for young people.

New national data reinforces the impact of the Gatsby Benchmarks on young people’s futures