High-quality careers guidance is vital to ensuring young people can access jobs that suit their talents and aspirations. This advice is particularly important for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, as they are less likely to have access to a wide range of knowledge and guidance from family and friends, or to have networks which provide an insight into a range of career options.
When we last published research on careers guidance in our report Advancing Ambitions in 2014, our research found a ‘postcode lottery’ of provision, with significant variability between schools. Since then, the policy landscape has changed considerably, with many changes made with the aim to improve careers guidance in schools, but relatively little is known about how these changes are being implemented on the ground.
This report looks in detail at the guidance now available to young people, their engagement with the activities and opportunities on offer, and any barriers to improving provision in schools and colleges.
Over a third of secondary pupils are not confident on their next steps in education and training.
More than a third of state school senior leaders report not having enough funding for careers guidance.
The proportion of students in year 13 who have completed work experience.
Existing careers provision
- A wide range of career related activities are available in schools. The most common activities reported as taking place by senior leaders in English state schools include sessions with a careers adviser (85%), careers fairs or events (84%), and links to possible careers within curriculum lessons (80%).
- Classroom teachers in English state schools are less likely than senior leaders to say links to possible careers are being made within curriculum lessons, at 59% vs 80%, perhaps reflecting some ambitions for careers guidance not filtering down into classroom practice.
- Almost all state schools now have a Careers Leader, a role responsible for a school’s careers programme, with 95% of state school senior leaders reporting their school has such a role.
- 73% of state school headteachers said their school works with the government funded Career and Enterprise Company (CEC). However, just 48% of heads said their school was part of a CEC Careers Hub – designed to bring together schools, colleges, employers and apprenticeship providers in a local area.
- The majority (94%) of state school senior leaders are aware of the Gatsby Benchmarks, the current framework for careers guidance. However, awareness is much lower among classroom teachers in state schools (40%).
- Alongside differences in the range of activities available in schools reported by teachers, there are also differences in students’ self-reported access. Overall, 36% of students in the UK said they had not taken part in any careers related activities. State school pupils are more likely to report not having taken part (38%) compared to pupils at private schools (23%).
- Students’ self-reporting of career activities is higher for those in later year groups. For example, while only 7% of those in years 8-9 report learning about apprenticeships, this was 26% for year 13s. Similarly, while only 2% of those in years 8-9 had visited a university, 42% of year 13s have done so.
- But even for Year 13s, figures for many of these activities remain low, with for example just 17% having learnt about career opportunities in their local area, and just 30% having done work experience. 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.
- Around a third (36%) of secondary school students do not feel confident in their next steps in education and training, with only just over half (56%) feeling confident. More pupils in state secondary schools report not being confident in their next steps in education and training than in private schools (39% vs 29%).
Barriers to good quality provision
- Over three quarters of state school teachers (88%) felt that their teacher training didn’t prepare them to deliver careers information and guidance to students.
- Over a third (37%) of senior leaders think their school does not have adequate funding and resources to deliver careers advice and guidance.
- Just under 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% saying the same in private schools. Just over half (51%) of teachers in state schools think there isn’t enough staff time to do so, compared to just 34% saying the same in private schools.
- Schools in more deprived areas are also less likely to have access to a specialist careers advisor, with 21% of teachers in the most deprived areas reporting non-specialists delivered personal guidance, compared to 14% in more affluent areas.
- 72% of teachers think the pandemic has negatively impacted their school’s ability to deliver careers education and guidance. This figure was 16 percentage points higher for teachers in state schools, at 75%, vs 59% in private schools.
Teachers’ views on improving careers guidance
- Almost half (47%) of state school teachers want to see additional funding for careers guidance, more than four times as many as in private schools (11%). State schools want to use additional funding to allow a member of staff to fully focus on careers guidance, with teachers also wanting to see better pay and recognition for the Careers Leader role in schools.
- Many senior leaders in English state schools also wanted to see additional visits from employers (47%) and more visits from apprenticeship providers (39%).
- The government should develop a new national strategy on careers education. Provision would benefit from a clear overarching strategy now that the government’s 2017 careers strategy has lapsed. The strategy should sit primarily in the Department for Education, but with strong cross-departmental links, to join up what are currently disparate elements in the system, and link clearly into the government’s levelling up strategy.
- At the centre of this strategy should be a core ‘careers structure’ outlining a minimum underlying structure for careers provision in all schools. There is too much variation in the careers provision available to students. This underlying architecture, with adequate funding behind it, would help tackle this inconsistency, by putting in place the same standard underlying set up in all schools, to aid them to deliver guidance as set out in the Gatsby Benchmarks.
This offer should guarantee that all schools:
- Have a Careers Leader with the time, recognition, and resources to properly fulfil their role
- Are part of a Careers Hub
- Have access to a professional career adviser for their students (qualified to at least Level 6)
- Greater time should be earmarked and integrated within the overall curriculum, and within subject curricula, to deliver careers education and guidance, to reflects its centrality to students’ future prospects. With competing demands on the school day, setting clearer requirements on the time schools should be spending on careers education, both on overall career guidance (for example in PSHE lessons or as a scheduled careers week for pupils), and for subject specific careers guidance within lessons would help give the topic the required priority within schools. This should be accompanied by better training for teachers on careers education within initial teacher training.
- All pupils should have access to work experience between the age of 14 and 16. Experience in the workplace can be extremely impactful for students, allowing them to gain important insights into the world of work and develop essential skills, with support given to help them to find relevant placements. This should also be accompanied by additional funding for schools, to allow them to pay for the staff time needed to support students to organise good quality placements.
- Better support and guidance should be made available for schools and colleges on apprenticeships, with better enforcement of statutory requirements. More investment should be made in national information sources and programmes on technical education routes to improve the advice available. Evidence suggests that too many schools are not meeting their statutory requirements under the ‘Baker Clause’. Better enforcement should be introduced, for example looking at incentives such as limiting Ofsted grades in schools who do not comply with the clause.
Recommendations for the Careers and Enterprise Company, and for schools, colleges and their governing boards are also available within the report.