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More schools meet careers benchmarks, but most miss target

Almost one in five schools are meeting all eight “benchmarks” for good careers advice – but most are still missing the government targets.

And poorer pupils and girls still lag behind their peers when it comes to career readiness.

Figures published by the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) shows the proportion of secondary schools and colleges meeting the Gatsby benchmarks leapt by 52 per cent last year.

The study involved insight from 4,500 secondary schools and colleges.

Just over 19 per cent of schools and colleges had met all eight benchmarks by the end of 2022-23. The figure stood at 12.8 per cent the previous year.

The numbers also show more than 56 per cent have fulfilled at least six of the goals, up from 43.5 per cent in 2021-22.

Despite this, schools remain well behind targets set by ministers six years ago for all secondaries and colleges to meet the eight Gatsby Benchmarks by the end of 2020.

‘Careers advice progress has been made’

CEC chief executive Oli de Botton conceded that not all youngsters are exposed to “broad, structured and inclusive” careers education, but stressed “progress has been made”.

“It’s a sound platform to build on. The next steps involve including teachers and parents more closely … [and] getting employers involved early on with a focus on key skills, so recruitment starts in Year 7 and relentlessly targeting disadvantage to remove barriers to equity.

“In practice this means embedding careers in the day-to-day curriculum and reinventing work experience so it’s ongoing rather than a one off. In this way, careers will become more mainstream, not at the margins.” 

CEC, which was tasked by government with boosting these figures, also revealed in a report published this morning that the average number of benchmarks achieved rose from 2.1 to 5.5 between 2018 and 2023.

The firm said the proportion of youngsters not in employment, education or training (NEET) after the age of 18 was lower (13.9 per cent) in schools and colleges that met the criteria. NEET rates at institutions that didn’t hit the benchmarks were 15.1 per cent.

Meanwhile, 68 per cent of schools reported that most of their pupils had workplace experience by the end of Year 11. This represents a 12-percentage point rise since 2021-22.

New ‘model’ for work experience

The report said CEC was trying “to reinvent work experience with a focus on disadvantaged young people and key, growing sectors”.

“We are developing a new, three-stage model that sees experiences build on each other through the course of a young person’s time in secondary school and have a clear link to key skills.”

The research found that children on free school meals had, on average, “lower career readiness than their peers”. The gap was highest in Year 11, when “students are preparing for their next step” after education.

Female pupils’ career-readiness scores were also lower than those of their male classmates.

Nicky Morgan

Former education secretary and CEC chair Nicky Morgan stated the report “tells us that young people and employers are benefitting from the systemic reinvention of careers” advice.

“Many of us who are older have long memories of poor careers experiences when at school. But things are now different for this generation.”

The government announced last year that it would update statutory guidance to “set a clear expectation that all secondary schools and colleges should self-report progress against the Gatsby Benchmarks” at least once every 12 months.

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

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