Brian Lightman, Board member, The Careers & Enterprise Company

Careers provision in England has improved over the last two years, according to a major survey of schools released last week.

That research "Careers Leaders in Secondary Schools" carried out by The Careers & Enterprise Company in partnership with The Gatsby Foundation, finds that:

  • 94% of Careers Leaders believe that the Gatsby Benchmark have helped to improve careers guidance
  • 88% say their role is having a positive impact on young peoples’ outcomes
  • 81% feel positive about the future of careers provision
  • 75% think careers provision has improved in the last 2 years

This is consistent with what schools and colleges are recording through The Careers & Enterprise Company’s Compass tool. 85% of schools and colleges use this tool to self-assess their performance on careers. According to this data, careers support is improving and is now strongest in the most disadvantaged communities.

What is striking is the lack of cynicism that comes through in the research. Careers Leaders surveyed are overwhelmingly positive about their roles and the impact of their roles.

This is perhaps best explained by the transformative effect we know careers support has on young people. Research from Education & Employers has shown high quality careers support and employer engagement has a positive impact on young people’s grades, employment prospects and future earnings.

The other finding in the research is that Careers Leaders are operating at a senior level. 83% are either on or report into the Senior Leadership Team. This profession is raising the priority of careers in schools, integrating careers into the core of the school vision, and leadership teams are backing them.

As one example of this, The Careers & Enterprise Company recently profiled Rachael Warwick who is the Executive Headteacher at Didcot Girls’ School in Oxfordshire as well as the Vice President of ASCL. The Careers Leader in her school, Stuart George, has a direct link into the Senior Leadership team and because of this, he can angle his work towards supporting whole school priorities. In this instance, his work has a focus on increasing opportunity for their most disadvantaged students. Rachael noted that the school’s success has been marked including a significant increase in access to ‘challenge’ (the most aspiration-raising) work experience placements, among the most disadvantaged young people.

This is the power of careers provision – and the power of dedicated teaching staff who want to inspire and prepare the young people they’re educating.

It remains early days. There is plenty to work on – in particular ensuring that Careers Leaders have the time we know that they need to do the role. This comes out clearly in the research. We must also remain committed to training. Encouragingly 54% have completed or are completing training, and 30% intent to train. The research shows training correlates with performance on careers.

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As we head into the school break, I hope that Careers Leaders in particular are celebrating this moment of progress. In such a short time – we have come a long way. When young people are inspired, our future is bright.

Brian Lightman, Board member, The Careers & Enterprise Company

Brian Lightman was General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders from September 2010 - January 2016 and is now a self-employed school leadership consultant. He serves on the board of the Careers and Enterprise Company and leads the PiXL Futures careers strategy, which is helping numerous schools to implement the Gatsby Benchmarks. He is author of the book "Lessons Learned – a life in education".

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