It has now been three and half academic years since the North East Gatsby pilot kicked off with the aim of implementing the Gatsby career benchmarks in a range of education providers. The Pilot was funded by the Foundation to the tune of £9,000 per school or college plus the central support offered by an appointed Pilot Lead.
Any impacts and lessons of the pilot should be key indicators for both the CEC and the DfE as they monitor the value of the Gatsby benchmarks in improving CEIAG provision. The fact that the Pilot is already being replicated (with lower funding levels) across the country as the CEC rolls out its Careers Hubs programme should only reinforce this need.
To learn these lessons, iCEGS have been commissioned to conduct an evaluation of the pilot which aims to
document a systematic attempt by education providers to implement all eight Benchmarks and establish what impacts might result from the implementation of the Benchmarks.
and, last month, an interim report was published giving an update on the findings of the evaluation.
The interim report finds that the schools and colleges involved in the Pilot self-reported that they did expand or improve their CEIAG provision according to the Benchmarks
This finding is not itself cross referenced against any external accountability of the schools or colleges CEIAG provision such as Ofsted reports. On a positive note though, the report does show that improvement (again, with the self-reported caveat) is possible across all types of education establishment. It seems that the clarification of CEIAG offered by the Benchmarks and the categorisation of the success criteria can be molded to work across the variety of providers in the English education system which is a major positive for policy makers looking for whole sector improvement strategies.
The report also finds that students across the providers responded with “significantly higher career readiness scores” which is an important variable to measure but, of the potential impacts, not the one that would hold the most sway with policy makers I would imagine. For this to be the case, further work would need to be done here to show a link with higher career readiness scores to actual employment and earning outcomes for young people much like the, now very well-known, employer engagement research from the Education & Employers taskforce.
The report also notes that, during the Pilot evaluation period, the schools involved reported an increase in the number of A-C GCSE grades but that it is not possible to draw any conclusions from this as there is no historical data to judge trends and no causation ties to be found to the Gatsby pilot. The success rates of FE College learners is not mentioned nor is any impact on attendance statistics of pupils in the area.
The interim report then praises the role of the Pilot area facilitator in
Creating a community of shared knowledge, networks and practice
which is clearly a benefit that a supported Pilot scheme could enact but one that would cause many professionals working in Local Authority skills development to wonder how that is different from their work which, in my experience at least, usually includes a termly forum where school and college leaders or careers leaders can meet.
Perhaps the part of the report most useful for other Hub Leads and Careers Leaders is the Emergent Challenges section (page 14). The fact that FE Colleges will struggle with Benchmark 8 (Personal Guidance) won’t be news to any practitioner grappling with the requirements to offer this highly individual service within current funding envelopes but the issue of tracking provision against the Benchmarks is one which I think the CEC do need to be on top of. Their Tracker tool has the basis to offer much support in this area but the wide range of approaches in how providers input activities will soon cause reporting problems for them. I’ve seen examples of a school inputting every Careers lunchtime drop in session they run, meaning huge numbers of repetitive provisions being added which boost the total number of activities in a Benchmark.
This then leaves the elephant in the room. The destinations data of the actual students participating in all of this provision is not mentioned in this interim report but this is due to the timescales involved and it will be referenced in the final report. Many of the pupils attending those providers during the pilot time will not have left those providers yet and, for those that have, only one years worth of data (2017) has been published by the DfE. I blogged about that 2017 data here and the lack of (positive) impact perceivable in those positive destination indicators so it will be interesting to see what the final report concludes with a researcher’s eye looking at a more complete data picture.
At the moment the Pilot evidence shows that providers are reporting that their provision has grown and their institutional behaviours changed because of the Gatbsy Benchmarks and that pupils are more confident about their career readiness. These are small rewards for the sheer scale of system change that has occurred with the formation of the CEC and its subsequent policies (including Hubs, Careers Leaders and employer encounters). The evidence for actual outcomes for students is still lacking. What this is proving though to policy makers is that system change in education is possible (without much funding) if the provision aims are formalised and grouped into ‘benchmark’ style targets. It seems that schools and colleges, despite their protestations to the contrary, do like to be measured on some of the things they do.