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DfE Research Report: Mapping careers provision in schools and colleges in England

EET city hall 25.06.15-1149Mapping careers provision in schools and colleges in England: DfE Research report July 2015

CooperGibson Research was commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to map careers provision in schools and colleges in England.


The aim was to explore across a range of providers, the array of careers provision available, use and value of the provision and nature of delivery.


A survey was undertaken across England during February and March 2015, to which 107 members of school and college staff who had some responsibility for careers provision responded.

Most respondents reported that careers guidance was the main part of their job (45%) or they do it as part of their leadership responsibilities (39%).

The sample was made up of 34 schools with sixth forms, 34 schools without sixth forms and 39 further education providers, across all nine regions in England.1 This represented a range of institution types, with the most common being general further education colleges (19%), maintained schools without a sixth form (16%), maintained schools with a sixth form (15%), academy schools with a sixth form (14%) and academy schools without a sixth form (13%).

Extract taken from the published report


The aim of this mapping project was to review the range of careers provision on offer, the nature of its delivery, its use and value. This report presents the feedback gathered from 107 school and college staff with some responsibility for careers provision. The following discussion summarises the findings, evidence gaps and points for consideration going forward.

Key findings and points for consideration 

• Careers provision across all types of institution, regardless of year groups taught, offers a broad range of activities and formats through which students can access careers education, information, advice and guidance.

• Much of this provision was aimed at higher year group to support key decisions at transition stages.

• Nearly all respondents reported offering information via websites, with at least 90% also disseminating information through organised events such as careers fairs and visiting speakers, and the use of printed materials. Signposting to external services such as opportunities to speak to further/higher education representatives, giving out prospectuses or websites such as the National Careers Service was also reported as very common practice among respondents (over 95%).

• Careers advice and guidance was most commonly provided by internal staff. However, there is some difference according to institution type – schools were more likely to use external careers advisers and schools with sixth forms were more likely to use external specialist providers. Careers education tended to be offered by internal staff. Use of professional careers staff and external professionals were also fairly common – each used by around half of institutions.

• Although they were generally very positive about the impact and effectiveness of delivery, nearly one-third of respondents (31%) thought that students were not always aware of the provision on offer to them, or of how to access provision.

Feedback from students, parents/carers and staff: Whilst this mapping project focused on feedback from a member of staff with some responsibility for careers provision, it must be acknowledged that their responses may not be wholly representative of all staff responsible for careers provision, other staff delivering careers provision (qualified and unqualified), students and parents/carers. Further research with these groups would provide a rounded view. It would be particularly worthwhile to gather the views of students as the recipients of the provision to identify their awareness of the provision available, the types of provision they most engage with (and the reasons for non-engagement), what they might need more support with, and the provision that has been most/least beneficial to them. This may also include a cohort of school/college leavers to determine the pathway taken and the lasting impact/effectiveness of the careers provision received prior to those decisions.

Whilst the feedback in this report suggests that there is high quality provision, it is not clear, for example, how often students are in receipt of careers guidance. Further work on the nature and frequency of provision would give insights to the range and scale of what is offered.

• Personalised provision was offered by nearly all respondents, generally from Year 10 onwards although one-third of institutions were offering this to Years 7 to 9. Although it tended to be offered across year groups, where it was targeted this was reported to be among lower year groups, for example for students with special educational needs, gifted and talented students, those receiving pupil premium funding, looked-after-children and those at risk of becoming NEET. Some commented that use of this service was by self-referral/request or referral from members of staff.

• Skills development and employability education was offered by the majority (88%) of institutions surveyed, and again was most common among older year groups (Year 10 onwards).

Targeting/personalised provision: It would be worthwhile for institutions to assess their approach to delivery and the efficiency of offering provision to whole year groups or targeting to certain students. It may be that working in partnership with other institutions or using alternative approaches could achieve better outcomes for students.

• Nearly all institutions helped students to gain contact with employers to learn about careers/jobs. However, around half reported that their institution does not have formal arrangements with employers for work experience, despite the fact that the majority (94%) felt confident in developing arrangements with external partners as part of careers provision.

Relationships with industry: As a significant aspect of careers provision, this element should be further explored to identify good practice in engaging with employers, how institutions could be better supported to work with employers in their local area and how networking and partnering might support employer engagement to make this engagement more efficient. It would also be worthwhile to explore with different institutions, how they work with employers, their contractual arrangements and the processes of setting up any arrangements and sustaining them, and how they could better utilise employers to work with younger age groups.

• Respondents were very positive about the value of careers provision for students, with face-to-face discussion being thought of as the most valuable aspect. Other elements thought to be useful by respondents are activities such as visits from guest speakers, visits to universities/employers, mock interview events.

Innovative delivery: With limited resources being reported to be a key issue for institutions, a timely project would involve some practitioner-led research, guided by a

research team, which explores innovative methods to engaging with students and delivering careers provision, and how best to meet the needs of students, parents/carers and staff.

• The majority of respondents (87%) felt that their institutions’ provision is of high quality. The key improvements suggested were more funding and staffing capacity: in particular, staff want more time to coordinate, manage and deliver careers provision; funding to organise visits and events; dedicated posts focusing on careers provision; time within the curriculum to deliver careers guidance and education; better collaboration with other organisations; better employer engagement and student engagement; and training for teaching and non-teaching staff.

Improving practice: Some action research projects could explore these issues with a drive to continuously inform and improve practice. Research on staff skills and knowledge needs and how best to meet these needs, would be particularly beneficial, especially those who are qualified at levels 3 and 4 and those who are not qualified or not careers specialists.

• In addition, 80% of respondents reported that the provision in their institution was evaluated regularly, with destinations data as a common measure as well as formal student feedback. Some acknowledged that data and feedback could be used better to improve provision and that it would be beneficial to use networks to share good practice.

Evaluating provision: It is not clear from the findings how institutions act on the feedback they receive from students, and in what ways they are responsive to that feedback. It would be useful to gather more in-depth information on the self-evaluation activities that institutions undertake, the range of measures in place for quality of provision and how changes/improvements to provision are monitored. Further consideration could be given to the value of exploring the perceived quality of provision in relation to destinations, student feedback and performance measures.

To access the full report:

Evaluation, Research & Development

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