Careers advice pledge ditched, but schools do improve

More schools are meeting the eight 'Gatsby benchmarks' for good careers guidance - but most still fall short

More schools are meeting the eight 'Gatsby benchmarks' for good careers guidance - but most still fall short


The government has watered down its careers advice targets for schools after new figures showed most still do not meet eight key “benchmarks”.

The Department for Education announced in 2018 that it expected all schools to meet the eight “Gatsby benchmarks” by the end of 2020.

The benchmarks come from the Gatsby Foundation’s “good career guidance” report. They range from linking curriculum to careers, and arranging encounters with employers and experience of workplaces.

But the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC), tasked by government with boosting these figures, revealed this week that just 12.8 per cent of schools had self-assessed as meeting all eight of the benchmarks as of the past academic year.

This does represent a substantial increase – just 7 per cent met all eight in 2020-21. But it still remains below the 100 per cent envisioned by ministers just four years ago.

Statutory guidance on careers advice no longer sets a target for when the benchmarks should be met, simply stating that schools should “demonstrate how they are working towards” meeting all eight.

Four in ten schools meet six careers benchmarks

The CEC insisted this week that the picture is improving. The average number of benchmarks met has risen from 1.8 five years ago to 4.9 today. More than 43 per cent of schools now meet at least six benchmarks, while just under 28 per cent meet at least seven.

de Botton

But chief executive Oli de Botton admitted there was “more to do”.

Careers leaders are a “growing force” in schools, and the government’s careers hubs programme – in which schools work together to improve their offer – is “driving improvements in careers provision and outcomes for young people”.

“By extending careers hubs to all schools and colleges our goal is to ensure more young people benefit from high-quality, inclusive careers provision, especially those that need targeted support.”

The CEC has been handed £142 million by the DfE so far, and is due up to £30.7 million this year.

During an evidence session with the education committee, Conservative MP Andrew Lewer asked if the money could be better spent by handing it to schools.

Roger Cotes, director of careers at the DfE, said the funding amounted to about £5,000 per school. Funding for the CEC was instead “designated as improvement support”.

De Botton said the CEC aimed to deliver its work “as efficiently as possible”. He said it did not always claim the full grant funding available each year.

“Careers education deserves public investment. Of course we can disagree about who does that, but I think it deserves public investment.”

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