Commentary

Improving careers provision in education

Laura Bell

As part of the annual National Careers Week, Laura Bell, Director of Careers at Education Development Trust, looks at what the government's Careers Strategy looks like on the ground. Laura is also President of the Careers Development Institute, the membership organisation for career professionals in the UK.

As it is National Careers Week, now is as good a time as any to reflect on the state of the nation when it comes to career guidance. With the government’s Careers Strategy over a year old, how well has the blueprint for building a Britain fit for the future been embedded and what is the reality on the ground?

Excellence in provision

The Careers Strategy is based on strong foundations and that means getting career guidance right from the start. The strategy draws heavily on the Gatsby Career Benchmarks, referring to them as ‘setting world class standards’ and I would wholeheartedly agree. The results of the pilot whereby the benchmarks were integrated into school and college careers guidance provision in the north east of England were hugely positive resulting in transformational changes to schools’ career programmes. It demonstrated the impact that can be achieved when there is a clear focus on driving through change. The strategy offers the opportunity for school leaders to take a proactive lead on adopting principles and practices that will positively impact on the futures of the young people that they work with.

However, it appears that despite all the productive strategic progress, schools and colleges could still potentially face a challenge in meeting all eight of the Gatsby benchmarks by the end of 2020.

A recent report from the Institute for Public Policy Research warned that two-thirds of secondary schools are still not compliant with their statutory duties and a subsequent freedom of information request by Schools Week highlighted that the Department for Education took no action against schools that ignored their careers duties. As a careers practitioner and an ambassador for excellent careers provision, I think more still needs to be done to increase the importance of good careers guidance within educational institutions.

A clear framework

With the Careers Strategy and the enabling Gatsby Benchmarks, we have a clear national careers framework with evidence of what can be achieved; what we now need is to use these to help schools and colleges rise to the challenge of making careers guidance a priority within their institutions. We need to work with educational establishments to help them integrate careers throughout the curriculum – and not just view it as a bolt-on activity to meet statutory requirements. We also need to ensure that schools and colleges can access high quality, impartial guidance from a qualified practitioner – whether that’s by training in-house teaching staff or bringing in external support.

I am attending an event at the House of Commons tomorrow that will focus on the future of apprenticeships, skills and careers guidance and, as ever, I will be passionately vocal on continuing to the drive forward the careers agenda at government level – while ensuring that what is proposed is practicable on the ground. We have a really solid starting point and now the responsibility lies with us to make the vision a reality.