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Careers guidance and access for education and training providers: Statutory guidance

Careers guidance and access for education and training providers: Statutory guidance for governing bodies, school leaders and school staff  was published by the Department for Education on  5th January 2018. This briefing summarises key points for action together with commentaries for careers leaders in schools. You can download the document here.

Key points for action now

1. Every school must ensure that pupils are provided with independent careers guidance from year 8 to year 13.


‘Must’ means that it is a legal requirement. (‘Should’ means that advice is being offered.) It has been a legal duty since September 2012 and covers most schools. Those without the requirement are encouraged to follow the guidance in the interests of good practice (see page 3 of the guidance). The governing body must ensure that independent careers guidance is provided. The meaning of ‘independent’ is explained in para 2 on page 9.

The government’s careers strategy published in December acknowledged the benefits of starting careers guidance earlier and announced a £2 million programme to test approaches to careers guidance in primary schools. Include Year 7 in your careers programme and make careers links with your feeder primary schools if you have not already done so.


2. Every school must ensure that there is an opportunity for a range of education and training providers to access all pupils in year 8 to year 13 for the purpose of informing them about approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships; and every school must publish a policy statement setting out their arrangements for provider access and ensure that it is followed.


This duty came into force on 2 January 2018 (see paras 61-19 on pages 24-26). It seeks to deal with the longstanding issue of schools that do not provide pupils with access to further education and independent training providers. The guidance explains the complaints procedure to be followed in the event of suspected non-compliance with the duties in this guidance (para 9, page 10).

This new duty is also an opportunity to ensure that pupils and their parents/carers are well-informed about apprenticeships and approved technical education qualifications, including T-levels which will be rolled out from September 2020. We will know more about the awarding organisations that will be developing T-levels later this year.

The proprietor of all schools and academies must publish a policy statement on provider access. The requirement is explained in para 4 on page 9 and an example is provided in Annex A on page 28. The DfE comments that ‘from September 2018, we will expect schools to publish a plan on their website. The plan could incorporate the policy statement on provider access that schools are required to publish.’ (para 18, page 13).


3. Every school should begin using the Gatsby Benchmarks to develop and improve their careers provision and meet them by the end of 2020. For the employer encounters benchmark, every school should begin to offer every young person seven encounters with employers – at least one each year from year 7 to year 13 – and meet this in full by the end of 2020. Some of these encounters should be with STEM employers.


Good Career Guidance, published by the Gatsby Foundation in 2014, was the outcome of a major research programme. It identified eight benchmarks of good practice which are set out in a table on pages 6-7 of the statutory guidance. The guidance emphasises that schools which achieve the benchmarks can be confident that they are fulfilling their legal duties. It provides detailed advice on what schools should do to meet all eight benchmarks together with some information about the support that is available (pages 13-27). These pages also outline continuing requirements and expectations, e.g. information sharing with local authorities and making provision for young people with SEND (see pages 17-19). The DfE acknowledges that schools have different starting points but recommends that all schools should aim to achieve the benchmarks by the end of 2020 (see para 15 page 12). This will be a demanding target for the majority of schools to reach, not least because of competing educational agendas, funding pressures and patchy external support mechanisms. The guidance urges schools to make progress by taking these steps:

  • offer every young person seven encounters with employers – at least one each year from year 7 to year 13 – some of which should be with STEM employers (see paras 49-52 on pages 21-22)
  • complete the online Compass self-evaluation tool if they have not already done so to establish their baseline (see para 14 page 12)
  • gain formal accreditation of their careers programme through the national Quality in Careers Standard. The DfE strongly recommends ‘that all schools work towards the updated Quality in Careers Standard, incorporating Compass, to support the development of their careers programme’ (para 20 page 14).


4. Every school should appoint a named person to the role of Careers Leader to lead the careers programme from September 2018 and publish the name and contact details of their Careers Leader on their website.


An overview of the roles and responsibilities of the Careers Leader is provided in para 17 on page 13; but by September 2018, the DfE will provide more details including the arrangements for training Careers Leaders in 500 schools and colleges during 2018-19. It has long been recognised that schools need to appoint someone with sufficient clout, time and expertise to lead the development of their careers programme. The guidance makes it clear that the role is separate from that of a Careers Adviser although a suitably qualified individual could combine both functions. The Careers Leader will mobilise the curriculum and staff resources of the school to promote the career development and self-reliance of young people including their ability to make the most of good career guidance.


5. Every school should publish details of their careers programme for young people and their parents from September 2018.


This is sound advice, not only as it helps promote access to the programme and address individual needs but also because it will encourage schools to plan their careers programme in advance.

Overall comment

This is the strongest and clearest guidance issued by the Department so far. The recognition of the important role of qualified careers professionals is welcome (see paras 70-72 on pages 26-27). The advisory aspects of the guidance are also particularly helpful, especially the recommendation that schools should aim to meet all eight Gatsby benchmarks by the end of 2020. The development of the careers leader role will be critical in enabling schools to achieve this.

The profile given to the Gatsby benchmarks is welcome. This is not the first time that faith has been put in focusing schools’ efforts around a manageable number of priorities. The ten features of good practice in HMI Survey 18 in 1973 was one of the first and the ten principles of good practice in careers education and guidance was the backbone of the Better Choices initiative in 1994. The Gatsby benchmarks are not perfect and the content of them will need to be tweaked especially in regard to careers education but they should help in the rebuilding of the careers system in England.

One of the main concerns, however, is the lack of new funding going direct to schools and the under-funding of the support infrastructure. The role of the Careers & Enterprise Company will be extended in 2018-19 to provide support across all eight benchmarks but the target for every school to have access to an Enterprise Adviser will not be achieved until the end of 2020.

We still need clarity on:

  • the position of careers in the revised Ofsted common inspection framework from September 2019 (See page 5 for the current arrangements)
  • the government’s plans to help schools to make the most of destinations data (see para 28 page 15). The fundamental problem with the current data is that they measure positive and sustainable outcomes but they do not tell us if the destination was the right one for the young person even though this concept is central to the careers strategy (see the first bullet point on page 4 of the guidance)
  • the future of PSHE, and if it is to become a legal requirement in schools, whether careers education will be recognised as a statutory component
  • the arrangements for training Careers Leaders in the remaining 2,500+ schools from September 2019
  • the arrangements for ensuring that young people can get the careers guidance they need during school holidays.


Add comment
  • Kath Wright

    Excellent summary. I would also like further clarity on the role on Destination measures and how the DfE are to support schools with a robust set of statistics (for three years) especially if students have opted out with sharing of information.

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  • Kath Wyke

    Many thanks for this Anthony.  There are some important and positive messages in here. I look forward to hearing about the further development plans for Career Leaders. 
    Career Connect are license holders of the national Quality in Careers Standard.  To find out more about the Licensed Awarding Bodies, please visit:

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  • Sarah Roche

    Many thanks to Anthony for the excellent summary (and the earlier one for the strategy). I am making use of these to keep our staff and schools all up to date (with credit going to Anthony and Cegnet). We are also looking forward to the promised information and guidance around the introduction of the Careers Leaders in schools.
    Thanks again

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  • Hayley Ridewood

    This is welcoming news and, in my opinion one that should have been brought in much earlier.  Too often do I meet students who have no clear direction and come from schools where Careers guidance / education is not mandatory or given.  Careers education, delivered within the curriculum will undoubtedly enable young adults to make informed decisions regarding their future.  And from an educational perspective increase achievement and retention. 
    Great news!!

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