Compass Plus

Getting started with Compass+ webinars

The Careers & Enterprise Company has released these two webinar recordings on their Youtube channel which take you through the Compass+ system of tracking your CEIAG scheme.

As a practitioner based in FE, this has less appeal to me as a) we don’t use SIMs or another similar compatible student database system that many schools use and b) the system we do use (Prosuite) is a malleable range of software. College data teams can build onto it so many Colleges will have their own personalised guidance and employer engagement tracking systems built by their own data teams already up and running. In fact, one of the recent AoC CEC Beacon Awards was to a College for achieving exactly this.

School colleagues will be working with more off the shelf systems though so may find the compatibility of Compass+ a selling point to incorporating it into their way of working and tracking their provision.

The COVID19 lockdown and the end of Gatsby by 2020

The COVID19 lockdown has and will have many sustained and substantive impacts on educational providers of all kinds. One of these may be the end of the Gatsby Benchmarks in their current format.

Before I explain why this might be the case, let’s remind ourselves of the evidence base which informed the design of the Benchmarks and the problem they intended to address.

The rationale for the Benchmarks is clearly outlined on page 13 of the original report

gatsby report1

Career guidance is important to social mobility

The original report also drew on a number of evidence sources to determine their Benchmark design and recommendations for provision across the different area of CEIAG as defined in the Benchmarks. This included references to the work of the Education & Employers Taskforce with particular regard to conclusions from two pieces of work

  1. Huddlestone, P., Mann, A. & Dawkins, J. (2012). Employer engagement in
    English independent schools. London: Education and Employers Taskforce.
  2. Mann, A. (2012). It’s who you meet: Why employer contacts at school make
    a difference to the employment prospects of young adults. London: Education
    and Employers Taskforce.

The influence on the Benchmarks and the wider recommendations from the Gatsby Foundation was substantive. Employer Engagement works to build social capital of young people to compete in the job market and the networks of employer resource utilised by the Independent sector should be mirrored by state schools. Through setting those particular Benchmarks the number of quality Employer Engagements would rise and so social mobility would become more fluid as those young people from across the strata of social backgrounds would approach progression into the job market more fully prepared. To help with the speedy progress towards the state school and College system meeting those Benchmarks, the Government set a target deadline.

Government’s expectation is that schools begin to work towards the Benchmarks now and meet them by the end of 2020.

The COVID19 lockdown, it’s differential impacts on the learning of young people from different backgrounds and the new delivery methods schools and colleges are having to implement to deliver curriculum will have significantly impacted CEIAG provision. In turn this will have consequences for deadline assigned to achieving Gatsby and the methods of CEIAG delivery that Gatsby includes. Lets consider some of the challenges facing a system trying to achieve those Benchmarks within the current time frame:

The attendance of pupils at schools and colleges has hit 1% during lock-down

Well below the DfE suggestions that 10% of pupils that would attend school sites during the lock-down this is a measly figure. Of course there are and will be viable medical reasons and parental decisions affecting those attendance figures but the fact remains that those young people who have the most distance to travel in their learning and experiential gain by attending school are not currently participating in on-site learning and so their progress across all sectors of their curriculum is much harder to measure.

This includes significant numbers of vulnerable and disadvantaged children staying away from school

Just 5% of those considered vulnerable were attending school the DfE believes. Those that would have most to gain from attending, were not. Of course, this will have impacts on a range of different and serious needs of those children above their CEIAG input but they are the cohort that Benchmark 3: Addressing the Needs of Each Student has the most to offer.

Disadvantaged children who stay home do not have the technology to access virtual provision

Schools and Colleges will have moved heaven and earth to provide as much remote technology to their students as possible but resources are finite which is why the DfE established their own scheme which suffered delays in getting those resources to the students in need. Throughout this period then, the very students who’s progress Gatsby was most meant to rocket-boost will not have had the technology required to access much of the CEIAG provision offered by their school or College.

Huge swathes of the economy are on pause limiting employer engagement

Even for those Careers Leaders keen to put on virtual provision for their students the challenges continue with their employer contacts preoccupied with other issues. 7.5 million workers have been put onto the Job Retention Scheme by their employers, approx 27% of all workers.

And, at the time of writing, we are just starting to see the data from the resulting recession which will be deep

As businesses focus on survival or adaption through this economic shock and the resulting new commercial world their participation in Employer Engagement with education is likely to be limited. The knock on effects to recruitment are already stark including to apprenticeship recruitment. This period is likely to have a long tail in a number of industries as the nation tentatively leaves lock-down while still adhering to social distancing guidelines. Travel, tourism, hospitality, retail and personal services are all likely to contract significantly and so offer less engagement to education. Those arranging work placements or looking for a range of employers to build into their comprehensive careers program may well find that previously reliable contacts are no longer able to support them.

The period of social distancing in education will impact provision for a long period to come

At the time of writing the Government and Teaching unions are in a standoff about a proposed 1st June return for some expanded on-site provision for a limited number of year groups. All stakeholders will have concerns and the DfE guidance gives an insight into the sort of rules that could still be followed even in larger scale openings come September 2020. Dividers in corridors, class sizes of no more than 15, pupils remaining in a class base while teachers move to them, and whole class isolation if one pupil tests positive all complicate the most normally straightforward provision, let alone complicated CEIAG activities with many moving parts and outside visitors.

Early COVID19 data is suggesting that, despite high numbers of deaths, significant proportions of populations are still yet to be infected

leaving huge numbers of potential new cases for second or third waves when lock-down measures are eased so Governments will likely have to reinstate strict lock-downs whether nationally or regionally depending on the movement in the R rate. This will mean much further disruption for education providers (potentially unevenly across the country) and the achievement of Gatsby by 2020 even less likely.

Impact on Gatsby

The CEC recently sent out a survey for Careers Leaders which included questions asking on how COVID19 has affected CEIAG provision in schools and colleges. If you haven’t responded already, I would urge you to do so. The results will be interesting. It may influence the CEC thinking on two points:

  1. Is there a need for Compass to amended so that virtual provision is accounted for and counts towards meeting Gatsby Benchmarks
  2. Is there an evidence base for virtual CEIAG provision so that a new edition in the “What Works” series can be published and is that evidence base substantive enough that virtual provision can, in some cases, replace real life experiences

Across many schools and colleges there will still be an amount of virtual and distance CEIAG taking place, especially to support to those leavers who’s immediate transition into the workplace or next stage of their learning is most at threat. There are significant positives to offering online guidance as part of a range of approaches

and some CEIAG activities are also achievable through virtual methods. Back in 2016, I posted about a virtual work experience simulator and compared it to the benefits as designed by the Education and Employers taskforce research. In my opinion it was a useful resource as part of a mix of approaches to CEIAG but wanting as a direct replacement for real life work experience as

Where the real benefit from such experience comes from is in the Social and Cultural capital sections. The human networks gained from actual work experience are missing from the Pod experience, there is no individually tailored advice or interactions with older colleagues whose voices are seen as ‘authentic’ and there is no human link made to call back on for a reference or further opportunities later on in the student’s progression.

In 2018, I posted about the rise in live streaming employer engagement events and compared the learning to a study which found that Universities who offer catch up lectures through online videos found students who watched the videos achieved worse than those who attended the live lectures.

It would be interesting to see what the CEC and their research partners conclude.

Looking though at the wider challenges facing both education and business over the coming 12 months, I believe that we are approaching a period where the Compass rating system (and the Gatsby Benchmarks they are founded upon) will no longer reflect the reality of huge amounts of CEIAG provision and that the 2020 deadline is no longer remotely realistic as too much time has been lost for those students Gatsby is most designed to help.

Where are Careers Hubs starting from and ending with?

I think it’s safe to say that the Gatsby Benchmarks have been a game changer in the CEIAG world. Not because they offer new ways of working with young people or reinvent the purpose of CEIAG but because they included practice with a solid research backing and standarised what a comprehensive careers programme in schools and colleges looks like. This standarisation has enabled other stakeholders and professional to quickly understand a common rationale and purpose behind such a programme and so buy in to the shared goals.

The benchmarks have been supercharged in some areas of the country with the support of local CEC supported Careers Hubs. With the second wave of 20 Hubs to come online in September 2019, the CEC has been keen to show evidence of pacy progress towards meeting both technical goals around Benchmarks but also highlight that this work is happening in disadvantaged areas of the country. 

Schools and colleges in this first wave of Careers Hubs are already outperforming the national average across all aspects of careers education. After two terms, schools and colleges which are part of the first wave of Hubs are:

  • outperforming the national average on every single one of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks of good careers guidance
  • the majority (58%) are providing every student with regular encounters with employers
  • the majority (52%) are providing every student with workplace experiences such as work experience, shadowing or workplace visits

Most striking is that improvements are strongest in disadvantage areas including in Careers Hubs located in Tees Valley, Lancashire, the Black Country and Liverpool City Region.

There are a two issues which should provoke some discussion about the work of Hubs.

Starting from a higher base point

The CEC Prospectus for the Careers Hubs bidding process was clear on the criteria areas had to meet to put forward successful bids.

cec hubs 1

It would logically follow then that Compass data for those schools and Colleges involved in Hubs should be, on average, at a lower point than School and Colleges not in Hubs at the start of the scheme. Sure, other factors such as destinations and achievement feed into the definition of Cold Spot areas but CEIAG and employer engagement provision is a central metric. There may also be some individual exceptions of providers offering high Gatsby compliant provision within those Cold Spot areas of course but, taken in the round, if the self reported Compass data is a consistent picture of practice and provision then it makes sense for the initial Hub Compass data to be below the national average. Yet this wasn’t the case. Using the July 2018 data (the left hand blue bars) from the CEC tweet below

and comparing it to the nationwide State of the Nation figures from 2018

state of the nation2

we can see that the Hubs were reporting a higher percentage of schools and colleges meeting already every Benchmark than the national average (apart from one – Benchmark 3) before the Hub scheme had even begun. The CEC is right to say in it’s press releases that by March 2019, Hub schools and colleges were

outperforming the national average on every single one of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks of good careers guidance

but what they don’t include is that this was the case for all but one of the Benchmarks before the Hubs had even started work.

This is concerning for the questions it raises on the reliability of the Hub awarding process, Compass as a self evaluation tool but should also prompt queries for the CEC over the pace of progress of those institutions involved in Hubs. Is it easier to roll the CEIAG snowball down the far slope once it’s already closer to the summit?

2. The more you know, the more you doubt

At the recent National Careers Leader Conference in Derby I was fortunate to attend some brilliant sessions including this from Dr Jill Hanson who is undertaking the Gatsby Pilot evaluation for ICEGs. I posted about the interim report back in March 2019 and it was great to hear about the positives the Pilot resulted in. After 2 years of the pilot young people at pilot schools and colleges were more likely to recall participating in CEIAG provision


and the 2018 cohorts reported much higher scores on a career readiness index


with clear correlation for higher readiness scores for those in providers who had fully achieved more Benchmarks.

A pause for concern though comes in responses from the same students who completed the career readiness index in both 2016 & 2018. These show significant drops in pupil confidence in career management and planning and information and help seeking skills but not work readiness skills.


As Tom Staunton notes in Dr Hanson’s slides, there could be a number of overlapping explanations for this. In the room, the practitioners present concluded that this might be a case of young people being introduced to a wider variety of routes that had pushed them beyond their comfort zone and in doing so reduced confidence and certainty in the routes they had previously been aware of (if any). If suddenly the world seems larger, your place in it will seem smaller. This is a theme which has been described in previous CEC research “Moments of Choice” and it will be interesting to see if a) this trend in the data continues and b) what steps the providers involved should take to address the issue (if any). Potential remedying work through personal guidance offering more support to those students reporting a lower level of confidence in those areas or more “nudge” based interventions aimed at groups? Or nothing at all?

Going forward

Up-scaling a model such as the Gatsby Benchmarks comes with pitfalls to avoid, particularly the temptation for providers to over-rate their progress or look for tick box filling solutions that don’t translate into substantive outcomes for learners. As Sam Freedman notes here

about a different education policy proposal, compliance isn’t always the full recipe and the intangible’s that can help make a good school CEIAG program (parental relationships, drive of the practitioner, heck, even office placement in the school) are difficult to measure. The forthcoming Compass Plus has the potential to address some of those issues as it more closely ties provision to self-evaluation.

Regarding the negative effects on student confidence in their future planning skills, the results of the Careers Registration Learning Gain project in Higher Education are a useful longitudinal comparative. Using a similar method (asking students to complete a career readiness set of questions year on year), these show that more mature learners can move towards higher rated career ready states. By the final year of a degree an increase of 18.28% of students reported themselves to be in the Compete category (see NICEC Journal April 2019). Could it be that the less confident younger students Dr Hanson found are a perfectly natural, even desirable outcome of Gatsby compliant CEIAG provision and that confidence in career planning only comes with greater maturity? Should CEIAG practitioners in schools revel in the fact that their students are less confident about their route but more aware of the diversity of options? These are fascinating questions that we have the potential to find answers to as the Gatsby Benchmarks standarise provision across the country.

Compass Plus

Coming soon to your school computer that takes a solid 30 minutes to boot up in the morning is a new website service from the Careers & Enterprise Company called Compass Plus.

A revamp and an expansion of their Compass self evaluation tool and Tracker provision recording tool, this new method of planning, recording and evaluating your Careers provision has the potential to have a number of benefits throughout the system. Currently being presented around the country after a period of development and testing, the tool will help (initially only school based) Careers Leaders.

compass plus 1

For ease of understanding, imagine that the CEC had taken that spreadsheet with your activities throughout the year mapped against the Benchmarks, reached into your drawer and added the student registers you scribbled down at those activities and also pinched your other Excel sheet with your employer contact details and the stack of slowly returning student destination forms on your desk and put all of that into an online tool that you could share with colleagues – that’s Compass Plus.

The improvements this could offer a Careers Leader are clear. Rather than completing cumbersome spreadsheets, your activities can be uploaded against the Benchmarks immediately updating your Compass completion scores both for planned and completed activities. The ability to integrate with your school’s MIS so that activities are added at a pupil level is potentially a huge positive for the both Leaders and Careers Advisers working in schools.

compass plus 3

As the CEIAG record of an individual student will be there for a Personal Guidance session to build upon or for a Leader to then tailor registers for future events so that all learners have access to CEIAG.

Your employer engagement could also benefit from the ability to store your employer contact details so that all of your colleagues access them for their own activities plus, the soon to come Tracker Enterprise which will allow Enterprise Co-ordinators to also add provider and employer details who can then connect with your activities and opportunities for engagement.

compass plus 4

The CEC is managing the on-boarding process quite tightly

compass plus 2

which is an effort to manage the demand pipeline so that the technology copes with the growth in usage. The potential for Plus to work with other systems such as Unifrog or Start Profile is also exciting.

For the CEC, the rollout of this type of system is logical as it will also offer benefits to their data collection. Currently, Compass evaluations are based on Leaders judgement without the link to activity to evidence those claims. The structure of Compass Plus, (a school’s Gatsby Benchmark compliance rating being automatically generated from actual provision and activities recorded at student level) provides a much stronger evidence base on which a school will self evaluate and then how the CEC collates that data across LEP, region and national pictures for publications such as their annual State of the Nation report. This tool should make it clear to Enterprise Advisers and Co-ordinators (and perhaps in time even Ofsted) that 39 weekly Careers lunchtime drop in sessions that the same 4 students attend isn’t a Careers programme that meets the standard required. With this in mind, I could envisage, even expect, that some schools who had previously scored highly against the Benchmarks, even those achieving full compliance, would see lower Benchmark scores when using the Compass Plus tool.

As a Careers Leader working in FE, much of the Compass Plus tool struck me as processes that already happens in FE. Student level activity recording will already happen in most FE Colleges not only for Careers activities but also other enrichment provision. Those with helpful data teams will have their own versions of the reporting ability that Compass Plus offers to show how many students have attended a Personal Guidance interview or been present at X number of employer encounters. When ever the FE version is developed and tested, the CEC might find that Colleges are much more reluctant to give up systems they have designed to achieve similar aims.

There is a FAQ on the CEC site

and I would encourage all secondary school Careers Leaders to set up their on-boarding as soon as possible.