Embedding the Good Career Guidance benchmarks in schools and colleges

Good career guidance has never been more important. Changes in technology, the technical education system and in the labour market mean that the jobs available and the skills and qualifications needed to reach them are changing all the time. The COVID-19 pandemic has added further disruption, with a disproportionate impact on young people as they enter the labour market. Many skilled jobs require specific education and training, and young people need more support to make better-informed decisions about their future.

Embedding the Good Career Guidance benchmarks in schools and colleges

Since the publication of the government’s careers strategy, The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC)’s role has expanded to support the implementation of all the Gatsby Benchmarks across schools and colleges in England. By developing tools to encourage the use of the Benchmarks, encouraging better use of data, and conducting research into good practice, we are supporting key partners and schools and colleges in their work to implement the Benchmarks and improve career guidance for all young people.

School and College Careers Leaders

Every school and college needs strong careers leadership if they are to design and manage an effective careers programme. We saw in the North East pilot that an empowered and effective Careers Leader is the cornerstone of change. This is not necessarily the same person as the careers adviser delivering Benchmark 8: Personal Guidance (who may be employed by an external agency), but a core member of the school or college middle or senior leadership team. Their job is complex and requires the authority to coordinate a range of career guidance activities across the institution. Careers Leaders need to understand the Gatsby Benchmarks, develop a strategy with the support of their leadership team, and act as a contact point for the many external organisations that offer support.

Government statutory guidance for schools, and guidance for colleges, now requires the appointment of a named Careers Leader. Research in secondary schools co-funded by Gatsby in 2019 further underlined the importance of Careers Leaders having support from, and regular access to, the school leadership team. Through working with partners such as The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC), the Career Development Institute (CDI) and Teach First, we aim to ensure that all school and college leaders recognise the vital role of careers and empower their Careers Leader to deliver an effective programme.

The impact of COVID-19 on Career Guidance

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing widespread disruption to education and a shift to remote learning, Gatsby has worked with The Careers & Enterprise Company to help the careers community respond. Clarification around remote encounters and experiences with employers to meet Gatsby Benchmarks 5 and 6 was developed in collaboration and was followed by Careers in Context: A can-do guide, which provided best practice guidance to Careers Leaders on delivering all of the Benchmarks under pandemic restrictions.

We have also funded research to understand how COVID-19 has affected career guidance in schools and colleges. Encouragingly, our research with senior leaders from summer 2020 revealed that while students’ timetables had come under increasing pressure, nearly three quarters viewed careers as a top priority for the new academic year. Further research in December 2021 revealed encouraging signs of pandemic recovery: a majority of schools were spending more time on students' career guidance; and 60% of school leaders felt their careers programmes had improved in their use of online and digital support for students. Our research has also explored how the attitudes of parents and carers to career guidance have been altered by the pandemic – more information on this and our wider programme of work supporting parents and carers can be found here.

labour market information and career guidance

The importance of labour market information (LMI) as part of a school or college careers programme is enshrined in Gatsby Benchmark 2. We have further explored use of LMI in career guidance through:

Our interest in the role of LMI in education is long-standing. On Gatsby’s initiative, in 2013 the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) developed the LMI for All tool, which connects existing sources of high-quality, reliable LMI with the aim of informing careers decisions. Rather than act as a website that presents data to young people, LMI for All makes data freely available to web developers to create tools to support career guidance. We continue to work with Government officials to ensure that young people have access to high-quality, up-to-date, LMI to help them make decisions about their future.

Benchmark Research

Gatsby works with partners to research the implementation of particular Benchmarks and uncover key barriers, obstacles and good practice.

This includes a collection of research focused on Benchmark 8: Personal Guidance, published in March 2021. The findings (contained in this summary report) are derived from insights from three individual projects:

We have also researched how information is shared with students about different qualifications and education pathways. A 2021 Gatsby-funded report from Pye Tait Consulting found persistent inequalities in frequency of information sharing and student satisfaction between academic and technical pathways, with staff most comfortable sharing information about A-levels and bachelor's degrees and doing so much more frequently than for other options. The report also explored good practice in how school and college staff interact and overcome logistical challenges to provide 'encounters with Further Education' in line with Gatsy Benchmark 7, with a clear majority of school staff vouching for the value of these encounters for their students.


Compass is a self-evaluation tool designed to allow school and college Careers Leaders to plan and assess their careers programme against the Gatsby Benchmarks. It was first created with The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC), based on insights from Gatsby's Good Career Guidance pilot and in collaboration with Teach First; the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT); the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL); Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and teachers across the UK. The CEC has since launched an upgraded tool, Compass+.

Compass+ is designed to help Careers Leaders benchmark, manage, track and report on their careers programmes. It integrates with institutional Management Information Systems (MIS) for effective and targeted planning and delivery based on individual students’ data which reflects their needs. For the latest on Compass+ and how to upgrade, visit the CEC website.

We know from the power of Compass+ data that school and college performance against the Benchmarks is improving. Gatsby believes in the power of a robust quality assurance system, purpose-designed for Compass+ and the Benchmark framework, to further improve standards and schools and colleges' confidence in their careers programmes. The CEC have developed the Careers Impact Review System, which uses both peer-to-peer and national specialist reviews and also engages school or college leadership teams in the process, establishing the importance of careers in whole-institution improvement planning. We have been supporting a pilot of the Careers Impact Review System since 2022.

The Government also publishes pupil destination data – the information about where students go onto after they leave school or college – as a headline accountability measure. Gatsby believes this is a positive step in helping schools and colleges prioritise career guidance. We also see pupil destination data as useful information for individual institutions to evaluate and improve their own career guidance programmes, as took place during the North East pilot of the Gatsby Benchmarks.

Support for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

Good career guidance ensures that all young people, whatever their needs, background or ambitions, know the options open to them and can make the informed choices needed to fulfil their potential. This is particularly important for the more than one million young people in England recognised as having SEND. Far too often, these young people can be held back by negative stereotypes and assumptions about their capabilities.

A group of specialist practitioners and national advocates for SEND, formed during the pilot of the Gatsby Benchmarks, gave Gatsby the clear message that it would not be appropriate to define a separate set of Benchmarks for young people with SEND. But we recognise that some of the Benchmarks may be implemented in a different way for young people with SEND, including in special schools, specialist colleges and alternative provision. In 2018 a joint statement by Gatsby, the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) and Disability Rights UK reiterated our support for the education professionals working with young people with SEND, who are best placed to develop careers programmes which address the needs of all young people and keep their aspirations at heart.

In 2019 Gatsby also published Good Career Guidance: Perspectives from the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Sector, in partnership with The Careers & Enterprise Company and Disability Rights UK. It brings together the views of leading practitioners and national experts on the importance of career guidance for students with SEND. They each describe how they, or those they support, have successfully used the Benchmarks to deliver better career guidance for students with a wide range of additional needs and disabilities. The publication can be downloaded here, and more information can be found on the Good Career Guidance website.

Other related programmes



Much has been achieved in the decade since Gatsby’s Founder, David Sainsbury, first asked Sir John Holman to describe what world class careers guidance looks like. During this time, we have seen impressive innovation in careers activities from schools, colleges, and employers and the Benchmarks are now embedded at the heart of the careers system. As we look ahead to the next ten years of Good Career Guidance, we are embarking on a programme of analysis to ensure our work continues to deliver the greatest impact for all young people. During 2023 we conducted a programme of stakeholder engagement, consultation, and research, including working closely with Government officials. We will publish our findings in full in a report in late 2024.

Piloting the Good Career Guidance benchmarks

Piloting the Good Career Guidance benchmarks

After the publication of Sir John Holman's Good Career Guidance Report, which first set out the framework of eight Gatsby Benchmarks, we began working with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to pilot the framework in 16 schools and colleges. The pilot institutions were of varying types, sizes and Ofsted ratings and were challenged to work towards all eight Benchmarks over two years, with an evaluation tracking the impact of this activity until autumn 2019.