Report Overview

The authors analysed data from over 800 schools and sixth form colleges to examine the impact of good quality careers advice on access to university and exam results. The report, by Professor Tristram Hooley, Jesse Matheson and A.G.Watts, compared schools which had received a ‘quality award’ for their career guidance with those that had not received such accreditation.

Key Findings

Controlling for other factors, they found that schools with the awards had a two percentage point advantage in the proportion of pupils with five good GCSEs, including English and Maths. They also found a small, but significant, reduction in persistent absences (of 0.5%).

In the sixth form, they found that the proportion of students gaining 3 A levels was 1.5% higher in schools and sixth form colleges with the quality awards than other schools, and students also had higher UCAS scores, though the gains were not repeated in general further education colleges. Sixth form colleges with accredited career guidance showed a significant increase in the number of students going to leading universities.

In 2011, the coalition government placed a legal duty on schools and colleges to provide career guidance. But this report says that this was accompanied by ‘weak statutory guidance and little help or support. This has resulted in a decline in the quality and quantity of the career guidance available to young people in England and the emergence of a ‘postcode lottery’ where some young people have access to much better career guidance than others.’


1: The government should strengthen the National Careers Service and give it a clear role to support schools in the delivery of career guidance. Ideally this would include providing schools and colleges with free access to professionally qualified careers advisers including specialist advisers with expertise in vocational options and with knowledge of entry to elite universities.

2: Additional resourcing should be made available to the National Careers Service to support it in broadening its focus to include schools and colleges.

3: Stronger incentives need to be developed to encourage schools and colleges to prioritise and invest in career guidance. This should include stronger statutory guidance.

4: Ofsted should review the way it inspects career guidance, to give it greater prominence. Ofsted should recognise that the careers Quality Awards offer a strong indicator of good provision.

5: The DfE guidance to schools and colleges is currently composed of both statutory guidance and non-statutory advice. This should be redeveloped into a single clear document, which should be much stronger in nature. The revised statutory guidance should be informed by the Gatsby benchmarks and other research on what constitutes good career guidance (including this report).

6: Linked to their statutory duty, schools and colleges should be required to develop and publish a school/college plan and policy on career guidance, to show that they are meeting their legal responsibilities and to provide pupils, parents and employers with information about the school’s activities in this area.

7: The statutory guidance should highlight the value of Quality Awards as a mechanism for driving improvement in career guidance and a guarantor of quality provision.

8: The Department for Education should continue to extend and enhance the quality of data it collects on student progression. This progression data should inform schools’ provision of career guidance and be seen as a key accountability measure. The data should be made available to schools in a way that can support the development of provision, e.g. through inclusion in the government’s portal for labour market information (LMI for All).

9: Online technologies are important to the delivery of effective career guidance. The Government should review the websites and services it supports and should develop a strategy designed to stimulate public-sector and private-sector development of tools that meet schools’ needs.

10: Any innovations or experiments in career guidance should be monitored and evaluated to ensure that new policies are evidence-based. Randomised controlled trials and other robust methods should be used where possible to assess effective practice.