To finish up my little mini-series on new research from The Careers & Enterprise Company I wanted to spend some time talking about the new State of the Nation research.
One of the things that has always hampered discussion about career guidance in England has been the lack of hard information about what practice looks like. It is very easy for people to cast back into their own childhoods and declare that ‘career guidance in this country is terrible’. On the other hand, as someone who is involved in career guidance it is very easy to point to loads of schools that are doing it really well and which give considerable cause for optimism. The problem is trying to get an overall picture.
This issue exercised us when we were working on the original Gatsby research that led to the Benchmarks. As a result we ended up running a survey to see whether schools were meeting the Benchmarks (they weren’t). After The Careers & Enterprise Company was created we were able to rework this survey and turn it into Compass (a self-assessment tool).
The data we gathered through Compass meant that we were able to publish State of the Nation 2017 which drew on data from 578 schools to tell us that while the overall quality of career guidance in England seemed to be improving, there was still a long way to go.
However, another year forward and we now have over 3000 school’s engaged with Compass which means that the picture that the data paints is an increasingly accurate one. On average schools and colleges are now achieving 2.13 of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks compared to 1.87 last year and 1.34 in 2014. So improvement continues to be slow and steady, but also consistent. Careers work in England does seem to be getting better, even if there is still some way to go.
So what does this mean for schools and colleges? The report suggests a number of pointers as to how you can improve your provision. Firstly it highlights the key areas of focus against each of the Benchmarks.
- Provide clear information about the careers programme on your website.
- Ensure that all of your students are engaged with labour market information prior to key decision points.
- Make sure that students are able to access records that are kept on their participation in the careers programme.
- Integrate careers provision into English and maths lessons.
- Start employer engagement activities earlier, ideally in Year 7.
- Ensured that all students have an experience of the workplace before they are 16.
- Ensure that all students have an encounter with a training provider and at least two visits to a university.
- Ensure that all students have a personal guidance interview in Year 12 or 13.
Obviously the areas to focus on will vary from institution to institution, but these points are the most common areas that people are slipping up in.
Beyond these pointers against each of the Benchmarks, the report also provides some useful insight about what makes a difference to school’s likelihood of hitting the Benchmarks. These are as follows:
- meeting one Benchmark makes it more likely that you will meet the others;
- schools and colleges that have completed Compass more than once achieve more Benchmarks than other schools and colleges;
- schools with a sixth form are less likely to meet the Benchmarks than other schools;
- schools and colleges in areas with higher unemployment and lower professional employment provide slightly better careers programmes than those in more advantaged areas.
- schools and colleges in the Enterprise Adviser Network (EAN) are doing better than those that are not in the EAN; and
- schools and colleges which hold the Quality in Careers Standard are doing better than those which do not hold the award.
All of this suggests that actively working on and committing to the Gatsby Benchmarks as a framework for your school or college will lead to improvements, but that this improvements aren’t likely to happen over night.
Nonetheless, I think that State of the Nation 2018 provides us with some invaluable data on the current situation in career guidance in England.