The Gatsby Benchmarks are a framework of guidance that define the best careers provision in secondary school education.
What are the Gatsby Benchmarks?
The Gatsby career benchmarks are a framework that schools and colleges can use to develop a good careers programme. They are the recommended elements of good practice in career guidance.
These benchmarks were born out of research completed by Sir John Holman in 2013. The purpose of this research was to identify ways to improve career guidance.
The ultimate aims?
- to provide young people with the tools to create successful futures
- to improve the social mobility of students who lack social capital
The question the research set out to answer was ‘what does good careers education look like?’ To answer this question Holman visited schools in England and also overseas. Each of the schools visited were considered to be examples of best practice.
What does good careers education look like?
Some of the key findings from Holman’s research showed that careers guidance programmes were good when:
- guidance was integrated into core school processes
- guidance counsellors were qualified in careers education and counselling
- teachers were encouraged to cover careers as part of their curriculum delivery
- links were established that allowed industry to help develop teaching materials
In addition to undertaking fieldwork, Holman also made use of authoritative literature. This included amongst many others: Ofsted’s Going in the Right Direction report of 2012, The ACEG framework for careers and work-related education from the CDI, and Profound employer engagement in education: What it is and options for scaling it up. A report for the Board of Trustees of the Edge Foundation by Dr Anthony Mann and Baljinder Virk.
In 2014, following a year of research and refinement, Holman published the recommendations in the form of benchmarks.
The 8 Gatsby Benchmarks
A stable careers programme: Every school and college should have an embedded programme of career education and guidance that is known and understood by students, parents, teachers, governors, and employers.
Learning from career and labour market information: Every student, and their parents, should have access to good quality information about future study options and labour market opportunities. They will need the support of an informed adviser to make best use of available information.
Addressing the needs of each student: Students have different career guidance needs at different stages. Opportunities for advice and support need to be tailored to the needs of each student. A school’s careers programme should embed equality and diversity considerations throughout.
Linking curriculum learning to careers: All teachers should link curriculum learning with careers. STEM subject teachers should highlight the relevance of STEM subjects for a wide range of future career paths.
Encounters with employers and employees: Every student should have multiple opportunities to learn from employers about work, employment and the skills that are valued in the workplace. This can be through a range of enrichment activities including visiting speakers, mentoring, and enterprise schemes.
Experiences of workplaces: Every student should have first-hand experiences of the workplace through work visits, work shadowing and/or work experience to help their exploration of career opportunities, and expand their networks
Encounters with further and higher education: All students should understand the full range of learning opportunities that are available to them. This includes both academic and vocational routes and learning in schools, colleges, universities, and in the workplace.
Personal guidance: Every student should have opportunities for guidance interviews with a career adviser, who could be internal (a member of school staff) or external, provided they are trained to an appropriate level. These should be available whenever significant study or career choices are being made. They should be expected for all students but should be timed to meet their individual needs.
Why are the Gatsby Benchmarks important?
The Gatsby Benchmarks are important because they benefit students, educators, and careers advisers.
How do the Gatsby Benchmarks benefit students?
When implemented, the benchmarks provide students with the information and tools they need to make informed decisions about their futures. A careers programme designed around the benchmarks helps students:
- understand the careers landscape
- expand their horizons and aspirations
- understand the skills they need to succeed
Research undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) also states that students are ‘more likely to achieve better outcomes in the labour market’ and ‘less likely to become NEET (not in education, employment, or training)’.
How do the Gatsby Benchmarks benefit educators and careers advisers?
As a framework that supports the development of a good careers programme, the benchmarks:
- define clearly what schools need to do
- provide a structure that can be used to develop a good careers programme
The Gatsby Careers Benchmarks are also important because the Department of Education expects schools to meet them. The Government careers strategy is structured around the benchmarks.
Are Gatsby Benchmarks statutory?
While the benchmarks are not statutory, the Government recommends that schools meet them. This is because in doing so, schools can be confident that they are meeting their statutory duties.
Implementing the benchmarks also helps educators evidence students’ personal development during inspections. Personal development is a key judgement of the Ofsted Inspection Framework. It looks at whether schools and colleges are ‘providing an effective careers programme in line with the government’s statutory guidance on careers advice that offers pupils: unbiased careers advice, experience of work, and contact with employers to encourage pupils to aspire, make good choices, and understand what they need to do to reach and succeed in the careers to which they aspire supporting readiness for the next phase of education, training or employment.’
Achieving the Gatsby Benchmarks – 7 top tips
One: Get everyone on board. Begin by doing an audit of your current careers-related activities. This will allow you to see what great stuff you’re already doing. It will also allow you to identify any gaps in provision you need to focus on. Involve people from departments such as equality and diversity and supported learning to ensure your programme meets the needs of all students
Two: Publish the details of your careers programme on your website. Make sure this is easily accessible and understandable to all stakeholders. You can use this space to shout out all the good stuff you’re doing.
Three: Embed careers learning in schemes of work. Have teachers identify opportunities to relate subjects to careers.
Four: Make sure that all stakeholders have access to labour market information as well as insights from employers regarding changes in industry.
Five: Ensure that careers guidance is timely. Provide the information and support students need at different stages of their education and to meet their individual needs.
Six: Engage with employers (large and small) and make use of local mentoring and enterprise schemes. Also, work with Disability Confident employers to maximise opportunities for students with SEND to access work experience, mentoring, and supported internships.
Seven: All for All – Make sure that all students understand all learning pathways available to them.
The Gatsby Benchmarks and Xello: how future-readiness software can do the heavy lifting for you
Xello is an engaging online program that prepares students for post-secondary success in academics, careers, and life.
Assessments within Xello provide students with opportunities to assess their preferred ways of working, skills, and interests. This creates a personalised experience. These assessments are used to match students to careers they may like to pursue in the future.
You can find out all about the ways in which Xello can support you to achieve the Gatsby Benchmarks by downloading this handy two-pager.