Piloting the Good Career Guidance benchmarks

After the publication of Sir John Holman's Good Career Guidance Report, which first set out the eight benchmarks of good practice, we began working with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to pilot the framework in 16 schools and colleges of varying sizes, Ofsted ratings and types, including a Pupil Referral Unit. The pilot challenged the 16 institutions to work towards all eight benchmarks over two years, with an evaluation tracking the impact of this activity for two further years 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 us, and other organisations including The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC), to support schools and colleges across the country to improve their career guidance.

The impact of the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks pilot was investigated through an evaluation by the International Centre for Guidance Studies at the University of Derby, published in 2021, which tracked outcomes throughout the two years of the pilot and for the following two years. The pilot resulted in transformational changes to schools’ and colleges’ career programmes across the North East. 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 a school or college held, the greater the number of GCSE passes at 9-4/A*-C were 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.

Evidence for the positive impact of the benchmarks has been strengthened by research from the CEC: The benefits of Gatsby Benchmark achievement for post-16 destinations. The report found that as careers provision (as measured by the benchmarks) improves, Year 11 students show improved sustained transitions into education, training or employment post-16, with the benefits most pronounced in the most disadvantaged schools.

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 we fully support the CEC’s support for Careers Hubs across England since 2017.


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 careers website for schools and colleges.