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.

The pilot identified the enablers and barriers in each school and college and modelled a sustainable and replicable approach to delivering good career guidance across a region. This good practice has been used to help Gatsby, and other organisations including The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC), to support schools and colleges across the country to improve their career guidance.

The evaluation of the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks pilot by the International Centre for Guidance Studies at the University of Derby, published in 2021, tracked outcomes for the two years of the pilot and a further two years. The pilot resulted in transformational changes to schools’ and colleges’ career programmes: at the start of the pilot, 50 per cent of the participating institutions were achieving none of the Benchmarks, and no institution was achieving more than three. Just two years later, 85 per cent were achieving six or more Benchmarks, with three institutions achieving all eight.

Furthermore, student career readiness scores (a measure of preparedness for work) showed significant increases in all year groups across the four years of the evaluation. And the greater the number of Benchmarks held by a school or college, the greater the number of GCSE passes at grade 9-4 / A*-C achieved by each learner, even when gender, ethnicity, SEND status, free school meal (FSM) status, looked after status and Ofsted rating were taken into account. For further details and to read the evaluation, click here.

The rapid improvements seen in the pilot were due to: prompt reprioritisation by senior leaders; improved school and college career leadership; and strong regional coordination from the LEP. We have seen that both institutional and regional leadership are powerful drivers for significant improvement in career guidance, and as such Gatsby fully supports the CEC’s support for Careers Hubs across England since 2017.

Evidence for the positive impact of the Benchmarks has been strengthened by research from the CEC, which found a positive correlation between a school achieving the Gatsby Benchmarks and the likelihood of its students being in education, employment or training (EET) after Year 11. Each Benchmark achieved by a school increases the likelihood of a student being EET. This amounts to a 10% reduction in the proportion of students who are not in sustained education, employment or training (NEET) post-16 if schools meet all eight Gatsby Benchmarks compared to schools achieving none. This reduction is twice as great, at 20%, in schools with the most disadvantaged students.


The schools and colleges in the Gatsby Good Career Guidance Benchmarks pilot were:
1. Berwick Academy, Berwick
2. Bishop Auckland College, Bishop Auckland
3. Castle View Enterprise Academy, Sunderland 
4. Churchill Community College, Wallsend 
5. East Durham College, Peterlee
6. Excelsior Academy, Newcastle
7. Greenfield Community College, Newton Aycliffe
8. Harton Academy, South Shields
9. Kenton School, Newcastle
10. Northumberland CoE Academy, Ashington 
11. Park View School, Chester le Street
12. Shotton Hall Academy, Peterlee
13. St Joseph's Catholic Academy, Hebburn
14. Sunderland College, Sunderland
15. The King Edward VI School, Morpeth
16. The Link School, Sunderland

Circle = Secondary School
Square = Further Education College

Examples of good practice developed during the North East pilot can be found on our dedicated Good Career Guidance website..

Other related programmes

Embedding the Good Career Guidance benchmarks in schools and colleges

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.



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.