Policy into practice

The Government’s careers strategy, published on 4 December 2017, aims to help young people and adults choose the career that is right for them. To deliver this outcome, all young people in school and/or college must receive a programme of stable, structured advice and guidance, delivered by appropriately trained and skilled individuals.

To develop and improve careers provision, every education provider should use the Gatsby Benchmarks. Although not a statutory framework, the Gatsby benchmarks provide educators with a guide to providing a range of opportunities and varied careers programme for their students. The Government’s expectation is for schools to begin working towards the benchmarks now and meet all eight 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 career education and guidance that is known and understood by students, parents, teachers and governors.
2 LEARNING FROM CAREER AND LABOUR MARKET INFORMATION Every student, and their parents, should have access to good quality information about future study options and labour market opportunities. They will need the support of an informed advisor to make best use of available information.
3 ADDRESSING THE NEEDS OF EACH STUDENT Students have different career guidance needs at different stages. Opportunities for advice and support need to be tailored to the needs of each student. A school’s career programme should embed equality and diversity considerations throughout.
4 LINKING CURRICULUM LEARNING TO CAREERS All teachers should link curriculum learning with careers. STEM subject teachers should highlight the relevance of STEM subjects for a wide range of future career paths.
5 ENCOUNTERS WITH EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES Every student should have multiple opportunities to learn from employers about work, employment and the skills that are valued in the workplace. This can be through a range of enrichment activities including visiting speakers, mentoring and enterprise schemes.
6 EXPERIENCES OF WORKPLACES All students should have first-hand experiences of the workplace through work visits, work shadowing and/or work experience to help their exploration of career opportunities, and expand their networks.
7 ENCOUNTERS WITH FURTHER EDUCATION All students should understand the full range of learning opportunities that are available to them. This includes both academic and vocational routes and learning in schools, colleges, universities and in the workplace.
8 PERSONAL GUIDANCE Every student should have opportunities for guidance interviews with a career adviser, who could be internal (a member of school staff) or external, provided they are trained to an appropriate level. These should be available whenever significant study or career choices are being made. They should be expected for all students but should be timed to meet their individual needs.

For a comprehensive Gatsby benchmark guide and toolkit, including benchmark explanations and case studies we recommend reading The Careers & Enterprise Company’s Gatsby Benchmark Toolkit and SEND Gatsby Benchmark toolkit.

When planning an opportunity programme for your students, use our opportunity directory to search for a variety of experiences – including assemblies, workshops, mentoring programmes and workplace visits.

There are numerous tools for schools to assess how their careers support compares against the Gatsby Benchmarks and the national average, such as Compass. Read our ‘Tools for careers leads and teachers’ guide for more information.


Statutory duties, requirements and expectations

Timing Action
Ongoing (legal duty from September 2012)
  • All pupils at maintained schools, Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), FE and sixth form colleges must be provided with independent careers guidance from year 8 (12-13 years old) to year 13 (17-18 years old), and 19-25 years old with an Education, Health and Care Plan.
  • The independent careers guidance must:
    • be presented impartially - no bias must be shown towards a particular organisation, education provider or work sector
    • provide information on all education or training options available, including apprenticeships and higher education routes
    • promote the best interests of the students receiving it.

Ongoing (legal duty from January 2018)

  • Every school must ensure there is an opportunity for a range of education and training providers to access all pupils in year 8-13 for the purposes of informing them about approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships.
  • Every school must publish a policy statement setting out their arrangements for provider access and ensure that it is followed. The policy statement must include:
    • any procedural requirement in relation to requests for access
    • grounds for granting and refusing requests for access
    • details of premises or facilities to be provided to a person who is given access.

From January 2018 to end 2020

  • Every school should being using the Gatsby benchmarks to improve careers provision now, and meet them by 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 7-13 – and meet this in full by the end of 2020. Some of these encounters should be with STEM employers.

From September 2018

  • Every school should appoint a named person to the role of Careers Leader to lead the careers programme.

From September 2018

  • Every school will be expected to publish details of their careers programme for young people and their parents. Schools or colleges may revise the policy statement periodically, and must publish the policy statement in addition to any revised statement.


For more information, read Department of Education’s careers guidance and access for education and training providers - statutory guidance for governing bodies, school leaders and school staff. The Careers and Enterprise Company have also prepared a useful guide to the role of the careers leader

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