Reducing variability in careers provision in England

By David Morgan, Chief Executive, Career Development Institute
Posted Mon 30 May 2022 - 14:14

While Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all-age career services, England has a devolved approach with individual schools and colleges (or Multi-Academy Trusts) responsible for their own provision.

While this may give educational centres the flexibility to meet local needs, it comes with a risk of greater variability in the careers support on offer. To manage this, the government sets out standards in the Statutory Guidance for Schools and Colleges, while the Careers & Enterprise Company has put in place a range of support.

But two recent reports highlight the continued issue of variable careers support for young people across schools and colleges. ‘Paving The Way’ by The Sutton Trust, published in March 2022, includes the following key findings.

  • 36% of students across the UK said they not taken part in any careers related activities.
  • Young people were nearly five times more likely to receive information on university than on apprenticeships.
  • Schools in more deprived areas were 50% less likely to have a specialist careers adviser delivering personal guidance.

This research was backed-up by a report from the Social Market Foundation in April which found that careers provision is ‘patchy’ across and within schools and colleges, and that university routes tend to be made more visible than vocational alternatives to young people.

So what can your school or college do to address this?

While funding is challenging, it’s important that schools prioritise sufficient resource to support their young people. Most schools now have a Careers Leader, and free training for this role is still available, funded by the Careers & Enterprise Company. The CDI is one of several organisations offering this training to schools and colleges.

But not all Careers Leaders are trained to provide personal careers guidance, which should be provided by a qualified careers professional. The government’s statutory guidance recommends using the Register Of Career Development Professionals when recruiting as everyone listed is not only qualified to at least degree level in career development, but also commits to maintain their knowledge through CPD and abides by the CDI’s Code of Ethics.

An important part of the Careers Leader role is the development of a careers strategy, engaging both SLT and teaching staff to ensure a whole school/college approach. One aspect of that is careers education and you can engage with your Careers Leader to incorporate different careers into the curriculum, raising awareness among students of the wide variety of jobs available and their relevance to school and college work.

Make sure you understand the Gatsby Benchmarks and how you could apply them to your work, and have a look at the CDI’s Career Development Framework which complements the benchmarks with six learning areas for positive careers. Your centre will also benefit from joining a local Careers Hub to work with local businesses, training providers, schools and colleges.

And possibly most importantly, reflect on the careers support your school provides and think whether it is meeting the needs of all students, and especially those who need it most. This includes considering the balance between information on university and vocational routes, enabling students to make well-informed decisions with an awareness of all the pathways available.

David Morgan

The CDI is the professional body for those working in all aspects of career development. To learn more about the work of the CDI, please visit our website

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