face 2 face IAG

The numbers in the Careers Hubs Benchmark 8 progress stats are pretty wild

Launched in September 2018 with 20 Hubs across the country (plus the orginal North East pilot area), the Careers & Enterprise Company is now expanding this policy with another 20 Hubs. When launched, I was positive about the structure of support they would be able to offer local areas and could see the rationale behind expanding the North East pilot but was concerned that the funding model those schools and colleges enjoyed was not also being replicated. The initial wave of hubs covers locales across the country:

  1. Black County – 36 schools and colleges
  2. Buck Careers Hub – 21
  3. Cornwall – 40
  4. Cumbria – 40
  5. Greater Manchester – number of schools & colleges involved not clear
  6. Heart of the south west – 40
  7. Humber – 26
  8. Lancashire – number not clear
  9. Leeds City Region – 35
  10. Leicester – 20
  11. Liverpool City Region – 34
  12. New Anglia – 32
  13. North East – 40 (plus 10 colleges?)
  14. Solent – 32
  15. South East – ?
  16. Stoke – 20
  17. Swindon – 40
  18. Tees Valley – 35
  19. West of England – 25
  20. Worcestershire – 40
  21. York – 35

The CEC says the total number of schools and colleges involved is 710.

As we reach the end of the first academic year of their existence, the CEC claims that schools and Colleges in those Hubs are progressing faster towards meeting the Gatsby benchmarks than schools and colleges not located in Hubs and large proportions of them are already meeting a number of the Benchmarks.


Which shows rapid improvement in the percentage of Hub schools & Colleges reporting that they are fully meeting Gatbsy benchmarks. Within those figures though a truly eye opening amount of work must be happening.


Let’s take one benchmark in particular – Benchmark 8, Personal Guidance. The claim from the CEC is that 61% of Hub schools and colleges are reporting that they are fully meeting this Benchmark.

The School Guidance for this Benchmark is clear that to achieve it, every pupil should have a guidance interview with a Careers Adviser by the age of 16 and, if the school has a sixth Form, another if required by the age of 18.


While in the Sixth Forms & Colleges Guidance the wording is slightly different to take into account that students can complete Entry, Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 study programmes at different ages up to 19 so the age of the student isn’t the limiting factor, just as long as the IAG interview occurs during the learners study programme.


But the aim remains the same; every young person gets a 1:1 Careers meeting with a qualified professional.

Across the 710 schools and colleges in the Hubs it’s hard to find published the exact numbers of schools and the exact number of dedicated Post 16 providers (I’ve included the total number of providers for each Hub above where I could find it) but whatever those figures are, the CEC is now claiming that 61% of Hub providers are fully meeting Benchmark 8. This is extraordinary in itself but what I find even more remarkable is that 56% of those providers were reporting that they were already fully compliant with Benchmark 8 back in July 2018 before the Hub started. That is a very high level of provision in terms of pupil numbers.

Dfe data is that, on average, there are 948 pupils in a secondary school.

Across the 20 Hubs lets say, conservatively, 700 schools of the 710 participants are secondary schools that gives a total school pupil population of 663,600.

That leaves around 10 Sixth Forms or Colleges (in reality, it’s likely that these Post 16 providers take up a greater number) and these providers can vary tremendously in size. For example, Sunderland College has around 4,800 full time learners while Sixth Form Colleges have, on average 1,823 and School Sixth Forms even smaller at 202 students on average.

Sunderland College were part of the North East pilot Hub so I’ll include their learners but be conservative on the other participants and say the rest are smaller Sixth Form Colleges. That would result in a total of 21,207 Post 16 learners included in the Benchmark 8 figures in the pilot.

So the total number of students covered by the Hubs = 684,807 pupils (although this is likely to be larger)

If 61% of providers are now reporting fully meeting Benchmark 8 then that’s approx 423,832 young people in those 20 areas that have had a Careers interview. In July 2018, before the Hub started, 389,092 (56%) of young people were having a Careers interview. This is a huge amount of Careers and guidance provision occurring in those localities.

There should be huge lessons for those practitioners in the rest of the country to learn from these figures.

  1. What was the practice and structure already in place that allowed those 56% of those providers to already meet everyone of their students for a Careers interview? Considering that Hub areas were chosen specifically in response to the CEC’s own cold spots research which was meant to indicate a dearth of Careers provision,

cec 2

There should be learning opportunities here for the CEC as well as their Personal Guidance fund is another pot of money looking to support innovative practice in this area of CEIAG. Their publication in the “What works series: Personal Guidance” shows though that there are not many short cuts to providing provision in this area and how time and cost intensive Personal Guidance is by it’s very nature.

personal guidacne1

In a 948 roll secondary school, a Year 11 cohort would equal around 190 pupils. Seeing 5 of those pupils a day for a Careers interview would take nearly 38 days or over 7.5 weeks so this is a significant staffing allocation and that is just one year group. As a practitioner in an FE College with around 3000 full time students attending, I am another Careers Leader looking for ways to offer a guidance service that meets all of the quality points above but is also flexible enough to maximize capacity.

Hopefully the CEC is learning from those providers in the Hub areas how, despite rating lowly on the Cold Spot metrics, over half of them were able to previously achieve Benchmark 8.

2. How does that level of provision compare to providers outside of Hub areas?

Other sources offer insights but not directly comparable data. The most recent DfE omnibus survey (surveying pupils in Year 8 to 11) reports 47% of (under 16) pupils say the experienced a face to face guidance session

face to face iag

while the 2019 Youth Employment Survey (3008 young people aged 14-24) reports that 67% of young people had an interview with a Careers Advisor.

face to face youth iag

The most recent CEC State of the Nation report shows that 48% of all schools and colleges completing Compass reported that they were fully meeting Benchmark 8 in their first submission but this figure has risen to 55.4% on second rating.

personal guidacne2

So the Hub areas were already starting from a higher base than the rest of the country before the Hubs had even started.

3. Is this stable and should a new Benchmark 8 rating be submitted by the provider every year?

As Deirdre Hughes asks here for Benchmarks 5 & 6 but her question is equally applicable to Benchmark 8



Each academic year will bring new students for a school or college to work with and many things (loss of staff, internal restructures, expanding school roll) could result in a provider not maintaining their 100% compliance with Benchmark 8. Could the percentage of providers meeting Benchmark 8 in a Hub area fall as well as rise?

4. What changes have lead to the increase in capacity to be able to offer more or attain more take up of Careers interviews since the Hubs started?

Is it more schools and colleges dedicating more staffing towards this provision or something else?

It will be interesting to see how the new Hubs add to the lessons the CEC is learning over the next academic year and whether the rate of progress against Benchmarks continues particularly in areas which require high resource allocation.

A social bookmarking solution @Diigo – all thanks to @CareersLucy

Come September 2014 my school’s email will be changing from the Capita service we’ve had for a number of years (in preparation for a BSF school build which was cancelled and is now a Priority Schools Build) to an Outlook based service. Not a problem you might think but this will also mean the end of our secure Managed Learning Environment (MLE) in which I’ve built a swish little careers section furnished with lots of links that I use everyday in face to face sessions with young people. While I’ve been promised that my data will be transferred to a new service (run by these guys), I’m long enough in the tooth now to know that public service IT gremlins are bound to hold this up so I’ve been searching for an online bookmarking solution that I can set up in case of possible problems.

Which is why, when I saw this post from @CareersLucy, I did a little skip of thanks to the heavens.

With the help of her video I’ve now set up my own Diigo profile, added a Chrome App and ported across all of the links that I find useful with young people. Some of them I use much more than others but you never know what corridors a careers conversation with a teenager will travel so it’s better to have the links with useful info to hand than not. I still need to spend some time adding and modifying my tags to ensure the links will be to hand as the conversation flows but even after only a couple of hours work I can see the site being really intuitive to use while talking to students and much easier to pass links onto students through email for them to read and check back on after sessions. I can also see it being extremely easy to add new sites of interest that I see on Twitter, so maintaining and updating my profile will be very streamlined.



Another tool for the toolbox: #LMI for All – Employment Demand in 2020 site

If there’s one thing last academic year taught me, it’s to have a well organised website favorites bar when speaking to young people about their future course choices and career plans. Whether it’s researching Colleges in Canada or the job prospects for being an extreme sports instructor, you never know what individual route the conversation is going to cover.

Another site has launched recently that I will definitely be added to my armoury. The FE sector research and marketing body, RCU, has utilised recently released UKCES LMI data to create a webtool that clearly shows  the skills and employment prospects of many career areas in 2020. On one page you can clearly see how the demand for an occupational area is predicted to grow or shrink in the coming years and also find valuable info about current pay, demand across the country and qualification levels.


This is the first site I’ve seen that uses the UKCES data and, as such, certainly isn’t perfect for use with teenagers and wouldn’t be suitable for every session but I can foresee myself using it with some students to challenge some of their preordained views of certain career areas.

GCSE RESULTS DAY: Prepare your IAG war face


GCSE results day is a strange beast for IAG workers in schools.

The build up is like preparing for battle, your presence on the day is expected, advertised and relied upon, your target audience is tense, your colleagues are tense, everybody is REALLY TENSE…the appointed hour arrives…and then…the vast majority of students pay you absolutely no attention at all.

Admist the post envelope opening screams of joy and relief I usually find myself strolling through the crowd, giving out the odd “well done” and matey backslaps of congratulations to young people who visibly lift from the weight of stress being removed from their shoulders. Groups of them hug and cheer and scramble to grab their phones from their pockets to pass on the good news to their parents blissfully unaware of my presence.

All that is, apart from the occasional student. As you pause in the crowd you begin to notice the ones who have stepped back from their group of friends. Those who are hiding their results printouts close to their chest and not lost in a frenzy of sharing and comparing grades.

Those are the students who, subtly, with a glance or a quick “ok?” frown, I try to make contact with. The expectation in the build up to results day means that many young people will be reluctant to admit that things have gone wrong or that they have not achieved all that they had hoped.

Those that are brave enough to wear their disappointment on their sleeves soon find themselves comforted by teachers or tutors. Sometimes these bawling bundles of despondancy are sign posted on to me but sometimes they prefer to talk to a favourite teacher. On a past results day, a young man who had set himself extremely high standards, missed out on some of those top grades and was clearly upset. In that instance he was quite clearly being ably advised by his English teacher who, after speaking to me briefly to confirm entry requirements for the A Level pathways to medical routes, then went back to the student. The IAG happened and it happened it a way right for the student.

The quieter ones, those more reluctant to advertise their unease, are the students from whom I learn more about how to approach difficult IAG conversations and how best to structure an interaction so it finishes on a positive expectation of action.

Of course, it’s hard to catch every student that wants or needs to discuss things on the morning. In the days after, I find parents and students will get in touch through the school email, sometimes just to confirm small things about enrollment at Colleges, so I check regularly. Small hint here: I wouldn’t advise stumbling about for thirty  minutes outside the main arena at Reading Festival trying to get a good web signal on your phone.

Results day is a wonderful morning of celebration and achievement and during the very best of them, I have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do.

Careers Support vs Careers Independence

When to let go?

A few months back, during the feedback for one of my Level 6 face to face observations, a point was made that highlights an interesting tension in careers work for teenagers.

During the meeting with the student, she mentioned that there was potential for her family to move overseas once she had finished school. In fact, plans were advanced enough that the family had even identified a couple of possible Colleges she might attend but we were both unclear about how her English qualifications would transfer into the new system. So, we went online, found the College and their admissions department and, together, drafted an email to write to them asking for clarification. I ended this part of the session by making a note in the student’s contact book (like a school diary) to come and see me a week later to let me know if the College had replied.

Later in the feedback session, my assessor and I had a conversation about the balance between offering advice & guiding the client’s future behaviour and ensuring that they enact what had been discussed. For me this conversation highlighted a source of tension with providing Careers IAG for young people and the ideal of IAG that is exhorted by the Level 6 and practised with adult clients.

Where do you draw the line on how much you actually do for them and how much they do for themselves?

This article reminded me of this conversation:


“It’s not our place to teach them that. They’ve got to learn”

As a head of department this phrase used to drive me mad. Good teachers in my department would make this claim when it was suggested we supported students as much as we could to get them to understand, and therefore pass the course.

“But when they go to university no one will tell them which bit to read,” or “If I have to correct every part of it…” are arguments that just don’t work. That’s like saying I shouldn’t feed my infant son with anything other than an adult knife and fork as he’ll only have to do it that way in the future. Our job as teachers is to get them over the line that’s set for them and to teach them the right things along the way. Developing independence? Yes, certainly. But don’t use it as an excuse for not giving all the support you can. Build their confidence with all the support necessary, then withdraw the support gradually. Let the university/college/secondary school figure out what to do with them once they get there.

as it neatly summarises the same quandary. When do those stabilisers get taken away? Because, have no doubt, as students take their tentative first steps into the world outside of school by thinking about their post 16 options or experiencing the world of work for the first time or writing an application for an apprenticeship, we are there, supporting their every move and being those stabilisers making sure they don’t (or as few of them as possible) fall. The world that awaits will expect them to arrive with the skills to use the big knife and fork to borrow the analogy above so the balance has to be found. 

Government policy can affect this:

  • The increase in destination data for schools and the anti NEET agenda, the expectation from SLT will be that this support will be there for students and will grow in an attempt to ensure positive outcomes.
  • Good Careers education should prepare students to be better equipped for when that support isn’t there which makes the removal of the Statutory requirement on schools to offer this so perplexing.

With those pressures, some schools may fall into the tempting trap of never taking that support away. 

Striving for this balance, between independence and support, is a skill I find myself learning with each student.

What schools are looking for from independent Careers IAG practitioners

A week ago I attend my first Career Development Institute event. It was a day long conference entitled “From Student To Professional Careers Adviser.” I wanted to attend as I am currently working my way through the Level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance and Development at a pace somewhat slower than the forthcoming approach of the next ice age.

Anyway, it was a good day with a mix of presentations on practice and news updates. What struck me during the day was that, from approximately 25 attendees, I was the only one taking the Level 6 qualification, all of the other eager students were studying the Post Graduate Diploma. It was a room with the fullest stretch of different levels of experience either in schools or with adult clients but all with the same shared sense of keenness to start utilising their new qualifications with the full confirmation of the CDI Professional’s Register behind them out in the real world of careers work.

On this theme, the workshop that sparked this blog post was a presentation given by David Ryde, a recent graduate of the Post Grad qualification entitled, “Planning for the Future.” David spoke about his recent experience of becoming an independent careers professional offering services to schools and he compared and contrasted the benefits and negatives of looking for a stable role or starting your own business. The workshop really opened my eyes to the moment of change in the careers workforce currently evolving across the country. A lot of experienced practitioners, perhaps recently cut adrift from a Connexions type service, are being joined by newly qualified people, tempted by opportunities in an emerging market as schools begin to engage with the new duty placed upon them. And, as the CDI and Ofsted begin to lay down both sides of the regulatory boundaries that will help shape that market, these people are hoping to position themselves in pole position when opportunities in schools do arise either in salaried type roles or as an outside agency offering services to the school. In fact this thread from @Developmeant on Linkedin is a snapshot of exactly this situation


A massively important part of this equation which I want to cover here is what schools would be looking for from any relationship with an “outside” careers worker. No matter the remit, scope or scale of the contract with the school(s) there are some things which sole trading careers practitioners might want to consider.

  1. Your rate per day – this is vital. Don’t hide it away behind some guff about “bespoke services” on your website or expect the school to make any headway with you without knowing the brass tacks of the cost. The pot of money that Headteachers have to spend is tightening very quickly
  2. Realise that the organisational structures around schools is rapidly changing – academy chains and soft federations are springing up all over the place. This might benefit you as, once you’re in, good word will spread across schools quicker and bring you more work but you might also find that this leaves individuals schools much less flexibility to organise solutions just for them.
  3. Schools get bombared with companies offering services – A letter or email to a generic school admin account isn’t going to get you much work. Schools like people they know or have heard good things about from their local contacts – be prepared to offer days or presentations for free to get known
  4. And don’t expect your qualification or CDI membership or Matrix accreditation to open any doors either. This whole market is very new for schools and there won’t be many Senior Leaders that have the vaguest idea of what those logos on your letter or email even stand for. With time and the dedication to high professional standards from the newly formed CDI, this will change but, for now, it will be about personal contacts
  5. So, find the gatekeeper – every school will have someone with Careers or Work Related Learning under their umbrella of responsibility so get their ear
  6. Know the local progression routes inside out, forget your children’s birthdays and memorize these instead. Have contacts at those Colleges or Sixth Forms or Training Providers and sing about those contacts
  7. In fact, know the school – the forthcoming annual increase in the amount of student destination data for each school that will be publicly available will make it much easier for independent careers professionals to approach a potential client school with an outline of what good IAG could do to impact those destinations
  8. Be patient – in the whole, schools are not very responsive organisations – we run on very structured timetables. School calendars are written and organised 12 – 18 months in advance and, whenever something is put on for students, it takes a miracle of negotiation and collaboration to make sure it doesn’t clash with an exam or drama trip or moderation visit or anti-smoking presentation or just the everyday learning which has to take place. Lots of stuff happens in schools everyday. Don’t expect quick decisions
  9. Know the language – those of you that have worked in education before will be at a massive advantage because of the amount of terminology that starts flying past your ears as soon as you walk into a modern school. Know your CIC from your SEN from your Ever-6

I think it’s clear that for anybody wishing to establish themselves in a region as a independent careers worker without existing school contacts it is going to take significant effort to find success. Of course it can and has been done but it won’t be long before large-scale education resource companies such as Pearson or CfBT really start to look at this sector to see if they can corner the developing market and when they do, it will only make it much harder for independents to find a way in.