The requirements and expectations of careers provision


There are a number of requirements that schools need to meet with regards to their careers provision. In addition to these statutory provisions, there are also a variety of expectations that the DfE expects schools to meet to ensure they are providing pupils with the best guidance and opportunities.


The requirements


Schools must:

  • Ensure pupils are provided with independent careers guidance from Years 8 to 13.
  • Provide opportunities for a range of education and training providers to access all pupils in Years 8 to 13 so they can inform pupils about approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships.
  • Publish a policy statement setting out provider access arrangements.
  • Publish details of their careers programme for young people and their parents.


The expectations


Schools should:

  • Appoint a named careers leader.
  • Use the Gatsby Benchmarks to shape their careers provision now (as of 2018) and meet them by the end of 2020.
  • Offer every pupil seven encounters with employers, including STEM employers, (as of 2018) – at least one each year from Year 7 to 13 – and meet this fully by the end of 2020.


Meeting the requirements


Providing pupils with independent careers guidance from Years 8 to 13


Governing boards are required to make sure all registered pupils in Years 8 to 13 are provided with independent careers guidance. Independent guidance means it should be external to the school, e.g. through employer visits and mentoring. Personal guidance can be delivered by school staff if they are suitably trained.

Governing boards must ensure the independent careers guidance provided meets the following criteria:

  • It is presented in an impartial manner, not showing bias or favouritism towards an institution or pathway
  • It includes information on the range of education and training options
  • It promotes the best interests of the pupil it is given to


Providing education and training providers access to pupils


As of 2 January 2018, maintained schools and academies have a duty to provide pupils in Years 8 to 13 with access to providers of post-14, post-16 and post-18 education and training.

Schools are required to make arrangements to ensure pupils have access to a number of opportunities at different stages during their school life; e.g. at age 16, pupils must be provided with opportunities to hear from apprenticeship providers, FE colleges, sixth-form colleges and work-based training providers.

Find out more about what pupils are entitled to in our Everything You Need to Know About Provider Access article.


Publishing the provider access policy statement


All maintained schools and academies are required to have a provider access policy statement and to publish this on their website.

At a minimum, the statement should include the following:

  • Any procedural requirement in relation to requests for access
  • The school’s rules for granting and refusing requests
  • Details of the premises or facilities to be provided to a person who is given access

In addition, the following can also be included:

  • Information about what pupils are entitled to
  • A schedule of the opportunities available to providers throughout the academic year
  • The school’s policy on prospectuses, and where providers can leave relevant literature
  • Approval and review information

When a policy statement is updated, this revised statement must be published on the school’s website. For MATs, the DfE expects individual policy statements to be published for each academy within the trust.

Schools can use our template Provider Access Policy Statement to ensure they are compliant with this requirement.


Publishing details of the school’s careers programme


Schools must publish information about their careers programme on their websites – this legal duty came into effect from 1 September 2018. The information that is published must be related to the delivery of independent careers guidance to pupils in Years 8 to 13.

Schools must publish the following details:

  • The name, email address and telephone number of the careers leader – the DfE suggests this information is placed in a prominent position on the website.
  • A summary of the careers programme, including details of how pupils, parents, teachers and employers may access information about the programme – the DfE suggests that the summary gives a sense of what the school provides for each year group, in line with the Gatsby Benchmarks.
  • How the school measures and assesses the impact of the careers programme on pupils – the DfE recommends using destinations data and feedback from pupils, parents, teachers and employers to demonstrate impact.
  • The date on which the information will next be reviewed – the DfE advises that information is reviewed on an annual basis and that feedback is obtained from key audiences.

The DfE also makes other recommendations about how the information should be published – including that schools should:

  • Publish the information in a distinct place on their website or alongside other policies.
  • Incorporate their provider access statement alongside the information.
  • Use language that will be accessible to different audiences, e.g. pupils and employers.
  • Publish links to other helpful careers resources, websites and events.


The expectations – appointing a careers leader


From September 2018, every school should appoint a named careers leader – this role is important to ensure the leadership and coordination of a high-quality careers programme.




The responsibilities of a careers leader can be summarised under the following four headings:

  • Leader – they need to be a good leader who takes responsibility for developing, running and reporting on the school’s careers programme. Responsibilities include:
    • Advising the SLT on policy, strategy and resources for careers guidance and showing how the school meets the Gatsby Benchmarks.
    • Reviewing and evaluating careers guidance and providing information for school development planning, Ofsted and other purposes.   
    • Ensuring compliance with legal requirements.
  • Manager – they need to be a skilful manager who can run projects and line manage staff when needed. Responsibilities include:
    • Supporting teachers involved in careers guidance.
    • Planning careers activities.
    • Monitoring the delivery of careers guidance across the eight Gatsby Benchmarks.
    • Managing the careers budget as appropriate.
  • Coordinator – they need to be a careful coordinator of staff both internally and externally. Responsibilities include:
    • Managing the careers section of the school’s website.
    • Referring pupils to careers advisers.
    • Coordinating encounters with employers and work experience.
  • Networker – they need to be a skilled networker who is able to develop a range of links with employers and education and training providers. Responsibilities include:
    • Commissioning careers guidance services where appropriate.
    • Establishing and developing links with employers and education and training providers.
    • Building a network of alumni who can help with the careers programme.


Identifying and appointing a careers leader


Schools can structure and organise careers leadership in a range of different ways. The following three methods have been highlighted as the most effective methods by The Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC):

  • Middle careers leader reporting to the SLT – a member of staff is appointed to a middle leadership role, with support from a senior leader who has overall responsibility for careers. The role is combined with other responsibilities, as a teaching, a non-teaching member of staff or a careers adviser.
  • Senior careers leader – a member of the SLT is given direct responsibility for the leadership of careers. This senior leader will, typically, need an assistant or be able to delegate some responsibilities to other staff.
  • Multi-school leadership – an individual is the careers leader for more than one school.

The appropriateness of the different models will depend on individual school circumstances – schools should decide which model works best for their situation.

When appointing a careers leader, schools may either use an existing member of staff or appoint a new staff member – many schools choose to use an existing staff member, combining their role with other responsibilities. If an existing member of staff is appointed, it is important that they have the time to undertake their role and that consideration is given to any professional development needed to effectively undertake the role.

Below are the typical backgrounds of careers leaders and their typical strengths and areas that may need developing.


The expectations – meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks


While the Gatsby Benchmarks are not a statutory framework, the DfE expects all schools to use them to improve their careers programme. Meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks can also help schools to ensure they are meeting any legal requirements with regards to careers provision.

The DfE’s expectation is that all schools should have been working towards the Gatsby Benchmarks from January 2018, and meet them all by the end of 2020.

The eight Gatsby Benchmarks are:

  1. A stable careers programme – every school and college should have an embedded programme of careers education and guidance that is known and understood by the school community and employers.
  2. Learning from the career and labour market information – every pupil and their parents should have access to high-quality information about their future education options and job opportunities.
  3. Addressing the needs of each pupil – pupils should receive careers guidance differentiated by their stage of education. Advice and support should be tailored to the needs of the pupils, and equality and diversity should always be taken into consideration.
  4. Linking curriculum learning to careers – all teachers should link curriculum learning with careers. Teachers of STEM subjects should highlight how studying these subjects can lead to a wide range of career paths.
  5. Encounters with employers and employees – every pupil should be provided with numerous opportunities to learn from employers about the world of work and the skills that are valued in the workplace. This can be achieved through a range of activities, such as visiting speakers, mentoring and enterprise schemes.
  6. Experiences of workplaces – every pupil should have first-hand experience of the workplace through visits, shadowing and/or work experience.
  7. Encounters with FE and HE – every pupil should understand the full range of learning opportunities available to them, including both academic and vocational routes.
  8. Personal guidance – whenever significant study or careers choices are being made, every pupil should be given the opportunity to take part in a guidance interview with a careers adviser.

Schools should conduct a self-evaluation to assess their provision against the Gatsby Benchmarks. The CEC and Gatsby have developed a tool called Compass – a free self-evaluation tool that can help schools to evaluate their careers activity against the Gatsby Benchmarks.


Meeting Benchmark 1 – a stable careers programme


Meeting Benchmark 1 essentially means that a school has a careers programme in place which meets the requirements of the other seven Benchmarks, and that they can display how their strategy is coherent and embedded in school structures.

To meet Benchmark 1, schools need to:

  • Make sure the careers programme is stable, structured and has the backing of senior leaders.
  • Appoint a careers leader.
  • Publish the required information about their careers programme.
  • Regularly evaluate their careers programme – this should be done in line with feedback received from pupils, parents, teachers and employers. Schools can also gain formal accreditation of their careers programme through the Quality in Careers Standard, which offers an opportunity for schools to undergo an external evaluation of their careers programme – the DfE strongly recommends that schools work towards this standard.


Meeting Benchmark 2 – learning from the career and labour market information


By meeting Benchmark 2, schools ensure every pupil and their parents can access information about future study options and labour market opportunities.

Labour market information (LMI) can help to inform pupils’ choices about their careers – it can help them, and their parents, to understand the salaries and promotion opportunities for different jobs, and the volume and location of vacancies across different sectors.

LMI can be accessed from a range of sources, including the following:

  • LMI for All – this is a government-funded online data portal that is used by a number of providers, including the National Careers Service (NCS).
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – through the Jobcentre ‘Support for Schools’ programme, the DWP provides information to schools, pupils, teachers and parents on the local labour market and employer expectations.
  • Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) – in many areas, Local Enterprise Partnerships are collating LMI that schools may find useful to access.

Schools should research the different LMI sources and make sure their pupils are able to access this information and know how to use it to inform future decisions.

Alongside informing pupils about their career options, good LMI can also support social mobility by raising aspirations and tackling stereotypes surrounding some careers, e.g. that STEM-based careers only suit boys.

To meet Benchmark 2, schools need to:

  • Make sure that, by the age of 14, all pupils have accessed and used information about career paths and LMI to inform their own decisions and study options.
  • Encourage parents to access and use LMI and information about future study options, to help them support their children.


Meeting Benchmark 3 – addressing the needs of each pupil


Using destinations data


A good place to start with regards to meeting Benchmark 3 is looking at destinations data. Essentially, destinations data is information about where pupils go to after finishing KS4 – whether this be education, training or employment. It is suggested that schools collect this data for around three years after a pupil leaves the school or KS4, whichever is earlier.

By analysing destinations data, schools can gain a better understanding of the needs of current pupils and identify aspects of their careers provision that have or have not worked. The data can also be used to shape a school’s careers provision based on pupils’ needs. For example, if the data indicates that a high proportion of pupils take up apprenticeships after leaving the school, but the school’s programme does not provide much information on apprenticeships this highlights a need for the school to address, perhaps through running an event, on apprenticeships.

Schools are being encouraged by the DfE to make better use of their destinations data and to publish the data on their websites – information on how to use destinations data more effectively can be found in our article here


Supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils


Schools should work with their LA to identify pupils who need targeted support or who are at risk of not participating in post-16 – this includes children in need, pupils with SEND or LAC. The careers leader will need to work collaboratively with a number of key staff members to ensure pupils’ needs are met, such as the SENCO and designated teacher for LAC.

Personalised support for pupils with SEND should be identified through a conversation between the careers leader, the SENCO and other professionals. The guidance for these pupils should be based on their own aspirations, abilities and needs, and take account of the range of training and employment opportunities.


Pupils’ aspirations


Schools should work with their pupils to raise their aspirations – this is particularly important for disadvantaged pupils and pupils with SEND.

Careers provision should be focussed on pupils’ longer-term career aspirations, not on finding a post-16 destination that meets immediate needs. The guidance needs to focus on providing pupils with post-16 options which are most likely to give the pupil a pathway to employment or HE and give them the support they need to progress and succeed.

Schools could consider providing pupils with their own skills audit book. Pupils can use this book to record the skills they learn, how they can be applied to industry and any further skills they need to develop.


Meeting the benchmark


To meet Benchmark 3, schools need to:

  • Collect and maintain accurate destinations data and use this information to shape their provision.
  • Actively challenge stereotypical thinking and raise pupils’ aspirations.
  • Put processes in place to identify the personalised support needs of pupils.
  • Keep records of the advice given to pupils and any agreed decisions – pupils should have access to these records.


Meeting Benchmark 4 – linking curriculum learning to careers


A key barrier to effectively linking the curriculum to careers provision is teachers believing that they are not appropriately trained. To tackle this barrier, building relationships with employers is vital. Schools could invite employers in to give talks to teachers or send teachers out to work with local businesses, so they can learn about the skills businesses look for when they recruit employees – this knowledge can then be used to embed careers information into the wider curriculum.

Some of the schools that took part in the pilot stage of the Gatsby Benchmarks tried a variety of initiatives to embed careers learning into the curriculum, including the following:

  • Sending subject teachers to relevant industries to learn about the required skills
  • Building links between subject leaders and employers
  • Inviting employers into school to deliver or co-deliver lessons
  • Developing careers activities linked to subject schemes of work
  • Identifying careers ambassadors in each department
  • Including a careers prompt on planning documents for schemes of work

Benchmark 4 also requires schools to highlight to pupils how the wider curriculum will affect their career prospects. At an early stage, schools should ensure pupils understand that good maths skills and studying maths and science can lead to a wide range of career choices. By the time a pupil is 14, they should have had the opportunity to learn how the different STEM subjects help people to gain entry to, and be more effective workers within, a wide range of careers.

Schools should also make sure that pupils study the core academic subjects (English, maths, science, history or geography and a language) at GCSE – this is the English Baccalaureate (EBacc). Pupils should be supported to understand that these subjects provide a solid basis for a variety of careers.

To meet Benchmark 4, schools need to:

  • Support teachers to feel confident to link their curriculum teaching to careers provision.
  • Put initiatives in place to effectively embed careers learning throughout the wider curriculum.
  • Ensure pupils are aware of which subjects provide a solid basis for future careers, including STEM subjects.


Meeting Benchmark 5 – encounters with employers and employees


Real-world connections with employers should be central to schools’ careers strategies. To do this, schools should fully engage with local employers, businesses and professional networks.

These connections can be made in a number of ways. Schools can work with the CEC to identify an enterprise adviser that can support the school to connect to the labour market, or schools can make their own connections or enhance existing ones.

Pupils in Years 7 to 13 should participate in at least one meaningful encounter with an employer per year – one of the encounters pupils experience before Year 11 should be with a STEM employer or workplace. Different encounters will reap more successful results in different schools; however, some examples include:

  • Alumni activity.
  • Business games and enterprise competitions.
  • Careers fairs.
  • Employer talks.
  • Mock interviews.
  • CV workshops.

Many schools that took part in the Gatsby pilot already had regular careers fairs or talks with employers – so the key challenge was ensuring the guidance offered at these events was high-quality and that pupil engagement was high. Some schools began to enhance existing events by making sure they were extended to pupils in all year groups. They also looked at ways to personalise the employer interactions so that they were relevant to pupils’ futures, rather than just general careers advice. When planning encounter activities, schools could consider matching the employers invited to pupils’ aspirations and needs.

To tackle the problem of employer engagement in encounter activities, schools involved in the pilot contacted more employers by utilising alumni, parents and contacts from teachers.

To meet Benchmark 5, schools need to:

  • Provide pupils in Years 7 to 13 with meaningful employer encounters at least once per year.
  • Make connections and fully engage with local employers, businesses and professional networks.
  • Ensure any employer encounter events reach as many pupils as possible and that the guidance provided at these events is personalised, where possible.
  • Utilise other contacts, such as alumni, parents and teachers, to engage with more employers.


Meeting Benchmark 6 – experiences of workplaces


By the time pupils are 16, they should have had at least one experience of the workplace, and one more experience by the age of 18. Work experience forms are a required part of 16-19 study programmes, but a more flexible approach can be taken for younger pupils and does not necessarily have to involve a traditional placement. Options could include the following:

  • Job shadowing
  • Work experience in school
  • Workplace visits
  • Work experience (one- to two-week block)

Schools involved in the Gatsby pilot found that taking a strategic approach meant there was an increase in the number of pupils carrying out high-quality work experience. These schools focussed on encouraging pupils to take up opportunities to experience a wide range of workplaces and to plan for, reflect on and learn from these experiences. Our Pupil Work Experience Evaluation Form is designed to give a 360° view of pupils’ work experience and can inform future discussions with pupils, alongside ensuring they are on the right track to achieve their aspirations.

Pilot schools used a number of methods with regards to providing pupils with high-quality work experience, including the following:

  • Working with an external recruitment agency to prepare pupils and match them with employers.
  • Implementing ‘career investigations’, which encourage pupils to look at the hidden aspects of business that are often overlooked by pupils in previous work placements.
  • Pairing pupils with employers based on their aspirations and skills.
  • Designing a road map of meaningful and diverse workplace experiences.

Particular attention needs to be paid to organising work experience for pupils with SEND. These pupils should be carefully matched with employers based on their abilities, needs and aspirations – schools will also need to consider if the pupil will need additional support during their placement.

To meet Benchmark 6, schools need to:

  • Ensure that by 16, all pupils have had at least one workplace experience, and another by the time they are 18.
  • Consider how they will ensure pupils are matched to the most suitable employer for their workplace experience.
  • Particularly consider the needs of pupils with SEND.


Meeting Benchmark 7 – encounters with FE and HE


Meeting Benchmark 7 is largely focussed on complying with the provider access requirements outlined above in the ‘Meeting the requirements’ section. In practice, this means schools need to provide all pupils in Years 8 to 13 with opportunities for providers to inform them about the variety of careers options open to them, the courses and qualifications they offer, and what each option entails.

Schools should also ensure providers offering academic options, including sixth-form colleges and HE institutions, are given the opportunity to speak to pupils. Ensuring pupils know about academic, technical and training routes will help pupils to develop a comprehensive picture of the options available to them when they leave school.

By making use of all the organisations who can provide support through outreach and awareness programmes, schools can ensure that technical education routes are explained to pupils alongside academic routes.

Schools should also consider the messages pupils will be getting from their parents about their post-school options. By understanding where parents get their information from, schools can reduce the potential for pupils to receive conflicting messages and challenge preconceptions about academic and technical routes.

To meet Benchmark 7, schools need to:

  • Make sure every pupil, by the time they are 16, has had a meaningful encounter with providers of a full range of learning opportunities, including academic and technical.
  • Make sure pupils who are considering applying to university have had at least two visits to universities by the time they are 18.
  • Meet the provider access requirements.


Meeting Benchmark 8 – personal guidance


Pupils will make a number of significant study and career choices throughout their time at school. During this time, all pupils should have opportunities for personal guidance interviews with a qualified careers adviser. The DfE’s expectation is that every pupil should have at least one personal guidance interview by the age of 16, and the opportunity for a further interview by 18.

Personal guidance needs to be clearly linked to the wider careers programme and should be integrated into schools’ wider pastoral systems, so they can be followed up by pupils’ form tutors or equivalent.

Any person providing personal guidance needs to be suitably trained to do so – this could be an external professional or an appropriately trained existing member of staff. Schools need to explore the different one-to-one guidance models and choose the option that fits their school’s circumstances. The Career Development Institute (CDI) has developed the UK Register of Career Development Professionals to help schools identify qualified practitioners. 

Whether a school uses internal or external provision, they need to put a robust quality assurance process in place to make sure the guidance being provided is independent and impartial.

For schools providing an internal service, consider how the guidance provided will be independent and impartial. One school taking part in the Gatsby pilot swapped appropriately trained staff and pupils to make sure pupils received an impartial interview – this made sure staff had no preconceptions based on relationships built in the classroom.

For external providers, schools should think about the information they can provide in advance of any interviews – such as academic records and records of careers learning. This allows providers to give pupils more tailored advice.

Where careers advisers are working with pupils with SEND, they should use the outcomes and aspirations in the EHC plan, where they have one, to focus discussions. When working with LAC or previously LAC, careers advisers should use the personal education plan to shape the discussion.

To meet Benchmark 8, schools need to:

  • Provide every pupil with a personal guidance interview by the time they are 16, and the opportunity for a further interview by 18.
  • Select a delivery model that suits their circumstances.
  • Ensure the guidance that is provided is impartial and independent.


What happens if provisions are not met?


If a school is suspected of not complying with their statutory duties, the parties involved should, firstly, try to resolve the matter locally – this could include following a school’s complaints procedure.

If a complaint is not resolved, the DfE will consider whether the school has met their statutory duties. Remedial action could be taken where the DfE finds fault in a school’s policies – this could include an official or minister from the DfE writing to the school and, ultimately, the legal powers of intervention from the Education Secretary may be enforced.

If a school does not meet any of the expectations for careers provision, this would suggest pupils are not receiving the best and most effective guidance. The Gatsby Benchmarks are designed as such to ensure schools meet their statutory duties; so not adhering to the Benchmarks could mean some schools are not meeting key statutory requirements.




The Careers and Enterprise Company and Gatsby (2018) ‘Understanding the role of the Careers Leader’

DfE (2018) ‘Careers guidance and access for education and training providers’

Gatsby (2018) ‘Good Career Guidance’