Good careers guidance is a vital part of providing young people with the best possible chance to succeed in their future careers. In order to ensure that all pupils receive the best possible Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG), schools and colleges must meet the 8 Gatsby Benchmarks which ensure that the careers provision provided is of a high standard and meets statutory expectations.
This article explains what the Gatsby Benchmarks are, why they're important and how schools can strive to meet them.
Why is Career Guidance important?
Career guidance is a vital part of any education system and should be given the same attention as other core subjects.
It has become increasingly clear that good career guidance is essential for young people as they make decisions about their future. The difference that good career guidance can make has been widely evident across the UK - the pilot programme between 2015-2019 resulted in increased student career readiness scores (a measure of preparedness for work) as well as a positive correlation between the number of benchmarks a school or college held and the number of GCSE passes at 9-4/A*-C achieved by students.
This positive impact on self-awareness, career clarity, goal setting and academic achievements is clear proof that good career guidance makes significant improvements to life chances, employment opportunities and social mobility, reducing the number of NEETs (those not in education, employment or training (NEET)).
Planning for future opportunities and considering career paths may not always be at the top of every student's list of priorities during their school years. Disadvantaged students often find it difficult to see the relevance of career support to real life due to facing turbulent obstacles in their life such as poverty, trauma, family issues, or poor mental or physical wellbeing. Having endured such hardships many disadvantaged students will not have high expectations for themselves with regards to their future career prospects.
Several researchers have found that students from disadvantaged backgrounds lack awareness of the whole process of career development, not knowing what options are available nor when they should begin exploring them. Disadvantaged pupils also tend to be consistently less likely to seek out formal career guidance and post-16 information outside of school, than their more advantaged peers. Career guidance becomes all the more important for these students to ensure they are aware of the opportunities that are available to them.
It is educational institutions' responsibility to provide young people with the tools to create successful futures, so ensuring all children and young people have access to careers teaching is now a statutory expectation for all UK schools and colleges. Schools and teachers should be aware that students from disadvantaged backgrounds may be less motivated to succeed or to put a plan in place for their future careers, thus requiring a little extra attention and help to encourage them to take an interest.
What are the Gatsby Benchmarks?
"The Gatsby Benchmarks were established as part of Sir John Holman's research into what pragmatic actions could improve career guidance in England. Based on international best practices, they set out what a world-class career guidance system looks like" [source].
The Gatsby Benchmarks are a framework for school leaders, headteachers, and careers advisors to assess the development of their pupils in employability skills. They also help students track their own progress and identify areas in which they need to continue developing their skills.
Let's take a closer look at each one...
1. A stable careers programme
This benchmark requires that schools have a well-defined and stable careers programme that includes activities such as work experience, employer visits and talks from professionals working in various sectors.
It's important that students, parents, teachers and governors understand the programme and its importance, and that everyone is clear on their role in its implementation.
Careers programmes should be easily accessible through the school's website and should be regularly updated in order to evolve with the changing labour market, technology, skills and qualifications. For example, most recently, the impact of COVID-19 on career opportunities. During the COVID-19 pandemic the proportion of schools reporting that most of their students had access to a workplace experience by the end of Year 11 fell from 57% in 2019 to 39% in 2021, and in colleges it fell from 46% to 40%. These effects were seen nationwide, and have led to drastic changes in career teaching, emphasising the importance of remote working skills, technical competencies and future-proofed industries.
It's also important for schools to have a plan for how they will evaluate the impact of their careers programme. This can be done through surveys, interviews or focus groups with students, parents, employers and other stakeholders.
Evaluating the impact of the careers programme will help to ensure that it is effective and that pupils are making the most of the opportunities it provides.
How Morrisby helps you meet and exceed Gatsby Benchmark #1
- Morrisby provides a complete student focused system with 22 ready-made lessons aligned to the CDI framework and Gatsby Benchmarks.
- The Morrisby Manager system provides detailed analysis of student progress against the Gatsby benchmarks and can generate data for Compass+.
- With the ability to link to school MIS systems such as SIMS, Morrisby can easily be used by tutors, PSHE and support staff, as well as the careers department.
2. Learning from career and labour market information
Every student, and their parents, should have access to enough information about future career prospects and employment possibilities. They will need the support of an informed adviser to make the best use of available information; careers leaders and headteachers should ensure that their staff are well-informed about the latest labour market trends and have access to good quality resources.
Labour market intelligence is a critical factor in helping young people make well-informed decisions about their future careers so access to LMI from a variety of sources should be paramount.
Employers can also help by providing information about the skills they look for in employees and the types of jobs that are available. Not only does this prepare young people for employment expectations, but it also serves to spark motivation for academic achievements given the knowledge of grade requirements for school leavers.
How Morrisby helps you meet and exceed Gatsby Benchmark #2
- Morrisby includes over 900 accurate and regularly updated careers profiles, subject areas and course listings including apprenticeships.
- Each career profile has up to date LMI as well as detailed entry requirements and pathways, whether academic or technical.
- One of the 22 built-in lessons “Understanding the school leaver and graduate jobs market” helps students analyse and critically appraise LMI.
3. Addressing the needs of each pupil
Careers programmes should be tailored to the needs of pupils. Since students have different career guidance needs at different stages of their education, opportunities for advice and support should be specific to the next steps in their career journey.
For example, career-related learning in primary schools should help children to understand what they could become through topic-based activities, discrete lessons and/or themed weeks, whilst career teaching in secondary school should centre around specific job roles, employment experience and study/training pathways.
A school’s careers programme should also embed equality and diversity considerations throughout, ensuring equal opportunities for FSM, SEND and EAL students.
One way of ensuring that the careers programme meets the needs of pupils is by involving them in its development, taking feedback on activities and what students would like to see from their careers programmes.
How Morrisby helps you meet and exceed Gatsby Benchmark #3
- Morrisby has award-winning psychometric assessments that identify pupil aspirations, values and interests and generates tailored career and subject suggestions for each, and every student.
- Each student has a unique profile that builds up over time and includes their participation in events and activities, culminating in the generation of a “Learner Passport”.
- Individual needs such as SEN, EAL or PP can be included and even automatically input from the school MIS.
4. Linking curriculum learning to careers
All teachers should link curriculum learning with careers. It's important that students don't feel they are studying a certain subject to simply pass an exam, rather that they are studying it to open up employment opportunities.
For example, studying persuasive writing as part of the English Language at GCSE isn't just about gaining top marks for 'convincing and compelling communication', it's about understanding that these skills can be transferred to careers in marketing and advertising.
Similarly, studying Mechanical Mathematics at A-Level isn't just about using trigonometry to work out the size of missing angles, it's about understanding that these skills are needed for certain jobs in varying industries: "Trigonometry spreads its applications into various fields such as architects, surveyors, astronauts, physicists, engineers and even crime scene investigators."
STEM subject teachers should highlight their relevance for a wide range of future career paths such as medicine, computing and research, whilst art teachers should emphasise that their subject can lead to careers in fashion, interior design and branding.
Careers teaching should help students to see how the subjects they are studying can be used in the real world and how they can transfer their skills to future careers.
It's also important that teachers have access to good quality resources that will help them to link curriculum learning with careers. These resources could include case studies of people who have followed particular career paths or videos of interviews with professionals working in various sectors.
How Morrisby helps you meet and exceed Gatsby Benchmark #4
- Morrisby includes lesson plans which can be used cross-curriculum, as well as the ability to add your own activities using the Compass+ vocabulary to record subject areas.
- The Morrisby system includes the Skills Builder framework and students can connect the skills required for the modern workplace alongside their academic skills.
5. Encounters with employers and employees
To meet benchmark no.5, it's important to have good links with local businesses so that students can get access to as much information as possible about different career paths.
Schools should make sure that they provide opportunities for students to meet employers, learn from their experiences and find out what skills they need to succeed in the workplace. This could be done through assemblies, where students listen to first-hand experiences, or drop-down days, where students visit 'stations' on rotation and learn about the different roles that are available in various industries.
Encounters with employees can help young people understand the reality of working life and how their studies might prepare them for routes post-18. The more employers get involved with schools, the better informed pupils will be about the world of work and the opportunities that are available to them for career development.
Employer engagement is a pivotal Gatsby benchmark, current guidance states that all students should have at least two meaningful encounters with an employer each year - for example career talks, work experience, or employer mentoring. Researchers have found that there is great value in employer engagement initiatives for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and a pressing need to increase availability of opportunities.
Interestingly, studies confirm that students attending more advantaged schools (lower % of FSM students) are more likely to pursue higher status work experience placements such as at banks, offices and companies (21%). The results for students from disadvantaged schools were quite the opposite - with only 5% of students pursuing a high status work experience placement. More work needs to be done to ensure students from all backgrounds have access to the same, and equal, opportunities with employers.
How Morrisby helps you meet and exceed Gatsby Benchmark #5
- Students can record their interactions with employers and even include evidence such as certificates or photos, as well as the Skills Builder skills being exercised.
- All employer talks and activities can be centrally recorded in Tracker alongside the relevant Gatsby Benchmarks. Students can then record their feedback on these and any other activities using the built-in feedback tools.
- The Morrisby lesson “Successful interviews” prepares the way for future employer encounters and the lesson “CVs” will result in a tailored, quality CV document.
6. Experiences of workplaces
Schools should also make sure that they have good links with local businesses so that students can find work experience placements. Employers can provide work placements for students, paid or voluntary, that will give them a chance to see what it's like to work in a particular industry or sector.
All students should have direct experiences of the workplace via work visits, work shadowing, and/or work experience to assist them in determining their career options and increasing their networks.
By the age of 16, this should be at least one experience of a workplace, additional to any part-time jobs, and by the age of 18, every young person should have had one further such experience.
How Morrisby helps you meet and exceed Gatsby Benchmark #6
- All Morrisby career profiles include examples of day-to-day activities in the workplace and most include videos of people in those roles describing their experiences.
- A student’s career suggestions will highlight the areas where work experience is likely to be most beneficial.
- Morrisby includes tools to record work experience and a lesson called “Preparing for the work experience placement”.
7. Encounters with further and higher education
Every student should be aware of the full range of educational choices that are open to them at school, college or university.
Having good links with Sixth Forms, colleges, universities and apprenticeship providers means students can get access to as much information as possible about different career paths by attending open days, Q&As with FE and HE students, and more.
Schools should provide opportunities for students to meet with both staff and student representatives from colleges and universities so they can ask any questions they might have about courses and institutions.
How Morrisby helps you meet and exceed Gatsby Benchmark #7
- Morrisby includes university and college profiles covering the UK as well as the Top 500 institutions worldwide. These are regularly updated with the latest information from UCAS, HESA, Office for students and our partner Times Higher.
- The course search tool helps students compile a shortlist that can then be easily shared with tutors or parents.
- A dedicated open days tool allows visits and reflections to be easily recorded.
8. Personal guidance
Every student should have the opportunity to meet with a career counsellor, who could be internal (from within the school) or external (a member of outside staff), as long as they are appropriately trained. They should be available at all times when a student is making significant study or job decisions.
Personal guidance is important because it allows students to talk through their options with someone who is impartial and can give them the best possible advice. Counsellors should be able to help students with things like choosing the right course, writing a CV or interview techniques.
A career counsellor can help students to understand more about the world of work and how their skills and qualifications can be used in different jobs. They can also help identify strengths and weaknesses and give advice on how to improve employability skills.
This benchmark continues to be the strongest performing benchmark among schools and colleges with around 80% of schools and colleges reporting that they had provided most of their students with an interview with a qualified careers advisor by the end of year 11 - increasing by 6% since the end of 2019.
How Morrisby helps you meet and exceed Gatsby Benchmark #8
- The Morrisby assessments allow for detailed insight into the individual and lead on to personalised recommendations for careers, subjects and even courses.
- Student profiles are comprehensive and can easily be viewed by tutors as well as careers staff. They include a “timeline” of all the student engagements while at school.
- The system includes interview tools which are suited for careers advisers, as well as a meetings tool. This encourages all guidance discussions – such as options choices or destinations to be recorded.
- Morrisby offers training for school staff to deliver feedback to students on their Morrisby reports.
So, why are Gatsby Benchmarks important?
In summary, the Gatsby Benchmarks are important because they provide a framework for schools to ensure that all students receive high-quality careers education.
They ensure consistency across schools and form a baseline for Department of Education expectations; the Government careers strategy is structured around the benchmarks.
By meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks, schools can be sure that they are providing their students with the best possible chance of success in their future careers by:
- Developing students' understanding of the employment environment, broadening their horizons and raising their ambitions.
- Supporting students in understanding the skills they need to succeed
- Defining clearly the expectations of schools
- Providing a framework to create an effective careers curriculum
Evidencing Gatsby Benchmarks for Ofsted
Integrating with Compass+, school and college Careers Leaders can plan and assess their careers programme against the Gatsby Benchmarks in order to manage, track and report on their careers provision. This monitoring and evaluation help support the development of lesson planning and teaching resources, as well as providing clear evidence of career guidance during Ofsted inspections.
Ofsted recognises the importance of high-quality careers education; a careers programme that offers unbiased advice, work experience and contact with employers so that children and learners can aspire, make good choices and understand what they need to do to reach, and succeed in their chosen careers.
Meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks can help schools to:
- Raise their Ofsted rating
- Attract new pupils and staff
- Improve employability rates for their students (reducing NEETs)
Tips for delivering a good careers programme
There are plenty of resources and support available to help schools deliver a good careers programme. Here are 5 top tips:
- Include all staff: get input from various departments such as SEND, Achievement Support and Pastoral teams to ensure your program meets the demands of all students.
- Make sure your career strategy is easily accessible and understandable to all stakeholders by publishing the details on your website.
- Embed careers learning in all SOWs: subject teachers must identify opportunities to relate subjects to careers throughout their schemes of work.
- Ensure that career guidance is timely: give students appropriate information and assistance as they progress through their education.
- Involve employers: take advantage of local mentoring and business programmes to maximise opportunities for students.
- Be inclusive in your approach: Ensure that the guidance is available to all students and that the approach is suitable for students of all backgrounds and abilities.
Morrisby on Gatsby Benchmarks
If you're looking for a tool to help students explore career opportunities and labour market information whilst allowing staff to manage, track and report on your careers programme, our platform has everything you need!
The Morrisby Careers suite has been designed from the ground up to help you meet and exceed the Gatsby Benchmarks. This highly engaging and student-centred system will enable you to anchor your careers programme in evidence and generate data for Compass+ and other reporting requirements.
Once you have generated activity data with Gatsby Benchmarks, it is then a simple task to upload this to the Careers and Enterprise Company Compass+ tool. And even better – Morrisby activity can have multiple benchmarks – allowing you to more accurately define and evidence your provision.
For details on how to upload data to Compass+, check out the Careers and Enterprise Company guide.
Final thoughts on Gatsby Benchmarks and career guidance
Career guidance is important for many reasons, one of which is that it can help young people make informed decisions about their future.
The Gatsby Benchmarks set out clear expectations for what good career guidance should look like and provide a framework for schools to measure their careers programmes against. Evidence of meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks can be used to demonstrate compliance with Ofsted inspection criteria around careers education, information, advice and guidance.