Advancing ambitions: The role of career guidance in supporting social mobility

Today marks the release of a new report that I’ve been working on for a while with the Sutton Trust.

Hooley, T., Matheson, J. & Watts, A.G. (2014). Advancing Ambitions: The role of career guidance in supporting social mobility. London: Sutton Trust.

The report traces recent government policy, arguing that the combination of cuts and poor regulation have seen a decline in the quantity and quality of career guidance in England. It also argues that one of the government’s main failings in implementing these policies has been the failure to monitor the impact of this experiment.

We then go on to try and identify what some of the impacts of career guidance are using data from over 800 schools and sixth form colleges which hold career quality marks and comparing this with other schools which do not hold these quality marks. We find  that there are a number of interesting correlations. So controlling for other factors, we found that schools with the awards had a two percentage point advantage in the proportion of pupils with five good GCSEs, including English and Maths. There was also a small, but significant, reduction in persistent absences (of 0.5%).

In the sixth form, we found that the proportion of students gaining 3 A levels was 1.5% higher in schools and sixth form colleges with the quality awards than other schools, and students also had higher UCAS scores, though the gains were not repeated in general further education colleges. Sixth form colleges with accredited career guidance showed a significant increase in the number of students going to leading universities.

The report then goes on to explore the factors that constitute quality career guidance. It notes the importance of a strong infrastructure to support career guidance, the existence of progressive education programmes, the importance of involving key stakeholders like employers and post-secondary learning providers and the need for a strong focus on the individual in the delivery of careers provisions (e.g. through one-to-one career guidance).

I think that this report is probably the summation of a lot of the work that we have done over the last four years which has explored the Coalition Government’s policies on career guidance. The use of quantitative methods means that we are able to say a bit more about the impacts of having good quality career guidance.

I’d be interested to hear more about what people think about the report once you’ve had a chance to read it.


  1. This vindicates the advocacy of the Quality in Careers Standard validating CEIAG quality awards, which the House of Commons Education Select Committee has recommended HMG requires all schools to work towards/achieve to ensure quality assured CEIAG is accessible to100% of young people across England. Evidence of enhanced achievement by students where this occurs shows HMG must act decisively so that no young person is denied access to this, their futures and the country’s economic success will be improved; but only if HMG stops leaving it to chance.

  2. Tristram, to my annoyance I was on a train when I saw you quoted in the Times newspaper this morning, and so haven’t had a chance to read the report.

    It’s not just good to see the report come out, but also that it appears to be reaching the mainstream media and that in itself strikes me as a welcome development.

  3. Really useful report Tristram. It’s good to see a strengthening evidence base for the value of guidance in achievement, retention and progression – something that is important when arguing the economic case for guidance in HE as well as schools and FE. Too often careers guidance has been seen as an ‘optional extra’ rather than being a core part of an educational institution.

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