The Government is under increasing pressure to publish its long awaited careers strategy. It has promised to release the strategy ’ this autumn’. The ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ is upon us.The clock ticking. Pressure is also mounting for it to have a more inclusive approach to the so-called Gatsby benchmarks ,produced by Sir John Holman which define the key concurrent activities required to deliver high quality Careers Guidance. Ministers and the Careers and Enterprise Company consistently champion just two of the eight benchmarks, covering work experience and engagement with employers, largely to the exclusion of the other six . It is widely accepted that the benchmarks are interdependent and mutually supportive, so that if just some activities take place, then the impact on outcomes will be diminished. The current narrative around careers guidance, particularly articulated by Ministers, focuses almost entirely on the activities of the Careers and Enterprise company, and largely ignores what is happening through the National Careers Service and through other professional careers guidance providers, partnerships and hubs where there are many examples of outstanding practice often confirmed by Ofsted inspections. We should be acknowledging and building on this best practice
Recently, the Minister Robert Goodwill in response to a PQ from Gordon Marsden, Labours Skills and HE spokesman said’ ‘The careers strategy will include proposals to improve the quality and coverage of careers advice in schools. These proposals will be informed by evidence regarding what works. The Gatsby benchmarks are based on the best national and international research and define excellence in careers provision. A two year pilot of the Gatsby benchmarks in the North East has demonstrated that significant improvements can be made.’ These improvements relied on an inclusive approach to the Benchmarks.
As the Minister stated Schools and colleges within the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) were selected in 2015 to pilot a new national careers guidance framework. This was designed to encourage the next generation of young people to make fully informed decisions and to begin to equip them with the skills employers need. The pilot involved two years of intensive careers activity with schools, colleges and local businesses and is including four years of data collection, gathered and analysed by an independent evaluator, who will report on the impact of the national pilot in terms of student outcomes and progression into higher education, apprenticeships or employment. Ryan Gibson, National Facilitator for the Good Career Guidance Benchmarks Pilot at the NE LEP, said in June this year :
“The programme has been transformational in terms of improving students’ access to careers education and helping them develop the skills employers need. The initiatives the North East LEP has developed as part of the Career Guidance Benchmarks pilot have improved collaboration between the business community and the education sector, as well as provide teaching staff with workplace training and personal development opportunities to better equip them with the knowledge and skills to provide effective careers advice to students.”
Its pretty obvious that the government needs to focus on what works on the ground, learn from it , build on it and that the resources that are available should be directed to this end. At the moment this just isnt happening, to the frustration of professional guidance practitioners and to the cost of people, including many of our youngest and most disadvantaged students , seeking to make informed career choices.Hopefully, the Ministers reply , referencing the benchmarks and evidence of what works represents a nuanced shift in policy. But dont hold your breath!
Eight Gatsby Benchmarks
A stable careers programme
Learning from career and labour market information
Addressing the needs of each pupil
Linking curriculum learning to careers
Encounters with employers and employees
Experiences of workplaces
Encounters with further and higher education
See also John Yarhams article in FE News October 2017