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12th Oct, 2023

Gavin Beart
Gavin Beart
Job Title
Divisional Managing Director

In recent weeks, secondary schools have been subject to DfE scrutiny in terms of the current standard of careers advice given to children as they approach the end of full-time education.

The last review of this kind was in 2013, and with various policy changes since then – not to mention an employment landscape largely driven by technology – it goes without saying that schools need to keep up with the times if they’re to help children make the best decisions about their future. 

The government wants changes in the form of effective careers education for primary school children. It wants an established pathway for work experience placements, making the opportunity more appealing to employers (many of whom have a well-established hybrid workforce, which makes it more difficult to organise in-person work experience); and it calls for internship support for SEND pupils.  

The decision to publish a strategic action plan for careers will be led by Ofsted’s findings on current practices in schools, following their recent research. Crucially, the DfE has been tasked with refreshing existing tools used by school and college leaders to expedite their careers provision reporting process, using the eight Gatsby benchmarks as a framework.

The DfE’s Strategic Action Plan for Careers 2024 ultimately seeks ‘clear measurable outcomes’ and wants evidence that schools are achieving the benchmarks. But challenges lie in the added pressure on overstretched professionals in support of the “continuous improvement of the current system”, and in how schools are marrying up subject matter with careers guidance: the time teachers spend on discussing career options within their subject.

Of course, everyone wants to see that children get the best information possible but, according to the ‘Independent review of careers guidance in schools and further education and skills providers’, many professionals were “limited by the time and resource available for careers guidance and were working hard to provide the best careers guidance they could in this context”. The review also shows “insufficient strategic planning and attention to the needs of individual pupils”.

There also seems to be confusion about the type of provision needed for Year 7 children. Ofsted recommends schools: 

  • Take advantage of the potential benefits provided by networks like careers hubs, such as support for employer engagement. 

  • Ensure that the careers programme is delivered by staff with the necessary expertise, and with appropriate support from careers specialists. 

  • Continue to develop staff knowledge of technical pathways (including T levels) and promote these equally alongside academic routes, using the DfE’s updated statutory guidance.  

  • Make sure encounters with employers, such as through careers fairs and talks, are delivered in a way that is most beneficial for pupils and learners. 

With work changing with developments in technology, it’s vital teachers keep up to date with jobs relevant to their subject area – how AI is changing careers that use maths and English, for example – and know how to answer questions about job opportunities at least at a basic level.

But are we asking too much of educators to play more than a signposting role – how much research can reasonably be expected of them into potential pathways, and is it inevitable that unfavourable links between job prospects and certain subjects will soon make some traditional subjects redundant?  

At Reed, we provide schools with free careers support for children in the form of an annual guide. It spans various sectors, routes into work, salary expectations for popular entry-level roles, along with links to discounted courses that students can take to learn more about an industry and gain relevant skills and knowledge.  

It’s our job as a recruitment business to keep up with evolving careers and employer expectations and we’re in a prime position to advise schools and colleges about work. We will continue to support where we can, but it is the curriculum strategy that holds the key, including the commitment to the cause; the readiness of teachers to invest their time to careers information training and research; and consistency in the delivery of resources and guidance.   

Find out more about Gatsby’s plans for careers information in schools, which will be shaped by their research programme: ‘Good career guidance: the next ten years’.  

To find a talented teacher for your school, or to find your next teaching role, get in touch with one or our specialist consultants today.