• Less than a third of 17- and 18-year-olds have completed work experience. 
  • Nearly a third of state school teachers say they don’t have enough funding to deliver good quality careers education. 
  • One in three secondary school students do not feel confident about their next steps. 

More than a third of (36%) of secondary school pupils don’t feel confident in taking their next steps in education and training, according to new research by the Sutton Trust that gives an up-to-date picture of careers education and guidance across schools in England. 

Previous research by the Sutton Trust highlighted a postcode lottery of careers advice across the country. Since then, the government has set targets for schools built on the Gatsby benchmarks for good careers guidance and established the Careers and Enterprise Company. 

Todays’ report finds that while progress has been made, there is still variation across schools, with the research identifying gaps between state schools with more and less deprived intakes, and between state and private schools. 

Teachers and pupils were asked about the careers activities on offer at their school, including sessions with careers advisers, employer talks and trips to careers fairs. However, 36% of students said that they had not taken part in any of the activities listed, with state school pupils more likely to say this as those in private schools (38% vs 23%). 

Schools in more deprived areas are also less likely to have access to a specialist careers adviser, with 21% of teachers in the most deprived areas reporting non-specialists delivered personal guidance, compared to 14% in more affluent areas.  

Today’s research also highlights differences in guidance given to students on academic and technical routes. Nearly half (46%) of 17- and 18-year olds (Year 13) say they have received a ‘large amount’ of information on university routes during their education, compared to just 10% who say the same for apprenticeships.  

Paving the Way highlights the importance of young people having interactions with employers throughout their education. Work experience placements are a key part of this and offer young people important insights into the world of work. Despite this, less than a third of 17- and 18-year-olds (Year 13) have completed work experience. The Trust is recommending that all pupils have access to work experience between the ages of 14 and 16. 

Today’s report also looks at the barriers to offering high quality careers provision across schools. Almost a third (32%) of teachers in state schools report they don’t have enough funding to deliver good quality careers education and guidance, compared to just 6% in private schools. Around half (51%) of teachers in state schools think there isn’t enough staff time to do so, compared to just over a third (34%) in private schools. 

COVID-19 has also had an impact on careers provision. 72% of teachers think the pandemic has negatively impacted their school’s ability to deliver careers education and guidance. Teachers in state schools were more likely to report this than teachers in private schools (75% vs 59%).  

As the qualification landscape continues to shift with the recent introduction of T Levels, and further changes expected over the coming years through the Lifelong Loan Entitlement, it is more important than ever that all young people have access to the information and guidance they need to progress into further study or work.  

The government’s previous careers strategy set out in 2017 has now lapsed, the Sutton Trust is urging the government develop a new strategy, with cross-departmental links to join up the system and integrate with the government’s broader Levelling Up programme. 

To further improve careers provision across schools, today’s report makes a number of recommendations: 

  • Every young person should have access to a professional careers adviser and a set minimum number of interactions with employers, including work experience. 
  • Students should receive more information on apprenticeship options, with better enforcement of the Baker Clause, requiring schools to give information on a range of pathways. 
  • More time should be earmarked in the curriculum to deliver careers education and guidance. 

James Turner, Chief Executive of the Sutton Trust, said: 

“All young people – whatever school they go to and wherever they live in the country – must have access to high-quality support to help them in their journeys through education and work. 

“As the government looks to make further changes to the qualifications and funding landscape, it is more important than ever that young people have the information, advice and guidance that they need to feel confident in their next steps. 

“The government must urgently develop a new national strategy on careers education and all schools, especially those serving the poorest communities, should be supported to offer the highest-quality provision”.  


  • TheSutton Trustwas founded by Sir Peter Lampl in 1997 to improve social mobility in Britain. The Trust has influenced government policy on more than 30 occasions; its programmes have to date given 50,000 young people the opportunity to change their lives; and it has published over 250 pieces of agenda-setting research. 
  • Teacher Tapp surveyed 3,140 secondary school teachers between the 22nd and 26th of October 2021. Survey responses are weighted to represent the national teaching population, according to school funding, phase and region, along with teacher age, gender and level of seniority. 
  • YouGov surveyed 1,083 pupils aged between 11 and 18, from the 4th of November 2021 and the 10th of November 2021. The data has been weighted to be representative of 11- to 18-year-olds as a whole. 

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