Doing great on Gatsby: What schools need to do to meet the eight careers benchmarks

Doing great on Gatsby: What schools need to do to meet the eight careers benchmarks

The Careers & Enterprise Company published its first official implementation plan this week, but what does it mean for schools? Samantha King reports.

From September, schools will be required by law to publish details of their careers programmes, as well as having a named “careers leader” in place to oversee it all.

By the end of 2020, schools will also be required to offer every pupil at least seven “meaningful encounters” with employers over the course of their school career.

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Alongside this, every school is required immediately to begin using the Gatsby benchmarks, which reflect international best practice, to improve their careers provision. Schools must meet all eight benchmarks by the end of 2020.

Information about how schools can be supported to do this has been gathered from a two-year pilot in the north-east and integrated into an implementation plan developed by the CEC, as the organisation designated by the government to coordinate the careers strategy. We’ve pulled out the parts relevant to schools below.

The pilot

In 2015, the Gatsby Foundation commissioned a pilot involving 13 secondary schools and three colleges in the north east local enterprise partnership region, to examine how schools could best achieve the benchmarks.

This ran from September 2015 to September 2017. At the start, 50 per cent of the participating institutions were not achieving any of the benchmarks. By the end, 100 per cent of participants were achieving at least four, 85 per cent were achieving six or more, and three schools were achieving all eight.

“We thought we were doing careers well and that this pilot would be a way of externally validating the amazing things we were doing,” admits David Baldwin, headteacher at Churchill Community College, one of the pilot schools. “What it did was really shock us. The moment we had to say ‘do we give every single one of our youngsters an opportunity to go into a workplace every year?’ Suddenly the answer was ‘no, we don’t’.”

The moment we had to say ‘do we give every single one of our youngsters an opportunity to go into a workplace every year?’ Suddenly the answer was ‘no, we don’t’

Despite entering the pilot achieving none of the benchmarks, his school ended it hitting all eight.

Since the pilot began, the school has run careers events ranging from bicycle tours of local employers to show students the opportunities available to them on their doorsteps, to hiring out a sports centre to host an inter-school careers fair, where pupils were allocated a job they then had to be interviewed for.

“We said to the youngsters you’ve got to find your own way there, you’ve got to decide what you’re going to look like, and you’re going to have to have this 15 minute conversation with a complete stranger about this job,” Baldwin says.

His advice to fellow school leaders trying to navigate the careers landscape is to work closely with other schools, build solid relationships with local businesses, hire “a really good” careers leader – then invest in them.

“We sent our careers leader on a week’s work experience, with five different companies, so she could start to connect with local employers, and understand what local work was really like,” he explains.

Pilot school Park View Academy hosts a careers fair

“In school, we get so caught up in the ‘I can’t possibly afford to do those things’, but investing in that person’s training was a brilliant thing for us. She could see what the possibilities were. We could trust her and she helped us to shape things.”

The progress of the participating schools and colleges will continue to be evaluated until 2019.

How to do careers well

Here’s some advice from the Careers & Enterprise Company, based on the pilot, on how to achieve the Gatsby benchmarks in your school…

1. Train your careers leader

A £4 million government fund has been established to develop training programmes and provide bursaries to cover the cost of training careers leaders for at least 500 schools and colleges.

Careers leaders are typically existing senior members of staff, careers professionals or other professionals recruited from outside of education, and are responsible for the delivery of their school’s career advice and guidance programme.

The first round of training will be rolled out in the 2018/19 academic year. An application process for the bursary is not yet in place, but when finalised, it will be announced on the CEC’s website.

Schools who don’t receive a bursary will still receive support from the CEC to train their careers leaders, with an online training module available in 2019.

2. Use online audit tools

Accessible free of charge through the CEC website, two online audit tools, Compass and Tracker, help schools evaluate their career provision against the benchmarks, and track their own progress.

Another, ‘Find an activity provider’ has also been set up to help schools search for companies they can connect with in their area to help provide employer encounters, and access external careers guidance.

3. Join a careers hub

Schools can get support in delivering careers by becoming part of a careers hub, which will be modelled on the pilot, but on a much larger scale.

The CEC has received £5 million of government funding to develop and lead 20 careers hubs comprising of 20 to 40 schools and colleges across the country, which will benefit from links with universities, other education and training providers, and of course, employers, to help schools and colleges meet the benchmarks.

The hubs will run from September 2018 until July 2020, with each member school receiving around £1,000.

Hubs will also have the opportunity to bid for access to a “virtual wallet” of £2.5 million through a separate employer encounters fund launched this May. This will be allocated to schools to assist them with providing employer encounters.

To become a careers hub, local enterprise partnerships and combined authorities can coordinate a bid in partnership with schools and colleges, with groups of 20 to 40 schools and colleges that wish to come together also able to submit a bid. More information on how to apply can be found here.

To become a lead school in a hub, schools should first be achieving all eight benchmarks. They should then contact their local enterprise partnership to discuss taking up this position.