Frequently Asked Questions for mainstream schools


Gatsby Benchmark 1 – A stable careers programme

What information do I need to put on my school website regarding the careers programme to target different stakeholders?

You must ensure that the information regarding your school’s careers programme, the types of activities offered at your schools, and when careers activities are taking place is accessible and can be understood by students, parents, teachers, governors and employers.

There is no need to create a different section for each of your stakeholders, but you should ensure that you cover what each group needs to know. For example:

  • Students/parents/carers – should have a clear understanding of the careers provision offered at your school.
  • Teachers –­ should be able to understand the key objectives of the careers programme and how their role fits within that.
  • Governors – should be able to understand your overarching strategy, how this fits in with the objectives of the whole school, and the review process for your careers programme.
  • Employers – should be able to identify the opportunities to engage with your careers programme and details of the Careers Leader or alternative contact.

How often am I expected to review the programme?

As a minimum you should review your whole school careers programme along a similar time frame to other whole school policy reviews – such as the curriculum – which in many cases is every three years.

Best practice would be to carry out regular formative assessment of the programme and complete a full programme evaluation annually.

What monitoring do you expect to see of a careers programme?

You should be keeping track of all career-related learning associated with the benchmarks in your school. This will enable you to know that every student has had the appropriate careers provision for their relevant key stage and help you to prioritise activities for those who need it the most.

Although tracking information is likely to be stored in a central location, staff from across the school will need to support the collection and recording of this information, similar to attainment and behaviour information.

How can I gather systematic feedback from employers?


Where possible, it is best practice to capture views of employers after each activity or interaction with students. There is a range of ways to do this, including: surveys, interviews, dialogue with school staff, focus groups.

It is important to capture a breadth of views to inform your programme planning and evaluation. The method of capturing this feedback is less important than who you are talking to and the regularity of the feedback – and how this information is then used.

What is the definition of allocated resources?

Allocated resources will include the Careers Leader’s time, the time allocated to teaching staff for delivery, support staff, as well as the budget allocated to the careers programme.

Gatsby Benchmark 2 – Learning from career and labour market information

Where can I access good quality Labour Market Information? (LMI)

The government’s website ‘LMI for All’ is a useful starting point and also has a Careerometer widget that you can embed into your own school careers website. The National Careers Service’s website includes LMI on all job profiles.

Your Local Enterprise Partnership will be able to provide LMI tailored for the region you are based in. There is also a range of websites and resources listed in our Gatsby Benchmark toolkits which can be found on The Careers and Enterprise Company website.

Gatsby Benchmark 3 – Addressing the needs of each student

Why is the Compass tool asking for three years of destination data if it is not a statutory requirement from the DfE? Schools do not have capacity to collect this data.

Our Compass tool was developed in partnership with the Gatsby foundation to assess a school’s performance against the Gatsby benchmarks which state for ‘Schools should collect and maintain accurate data for each pupil on their education, training or employment destinations for at least three years after they leave the school.’

The benchmarks set a high standard of career guidance based on international research and best practice. DfE have recognised that this may be difficult for some schools but encourage schools to begin to put processes in place that will help them make better use of destination data. For ideas on how this can be achieved please refer to the DfE Good Practice Guide

Do I need consent from the student to track their destination?

For a school to track a student’s destination after 16 years old, they will need the young person’s consent (unless the student is at a school sixth form, in which case the school does not need consent).

It is recommended that schools routinely seek consent from their students in Year 11 to collect and maintain information on them once they have left school. Young people can give consent from the age of 14. The DfE created a template in their best practice guide, which you can tailor for your school.

Do schools still have a statutory obligation to report intended destinations to their Local Authority?

Schools and colleges must report on the intended destinations of Year 11 and 12 students as part of the September guarantee process. Each LA must ensure that every young person has a secured place in an education or training provider up to the age of 18.

Each LA has a different timeline and process for this so please check with your own LA.

What is the best way to achieve/maintain accurate and long-term tracking without investing in an expensive system?

There are a number of ways to collect destination data that are not too labour intensive. You could consider one of the following options:

  • Setting up a group to manage communication with students after they leave. If you are doing this for a single institution, then setting up a LinkedIn group for each cohort you leave may be effective.
  • Setup an alumni survey process to gather data once students have left your school.
  • Put in place data sharing agreements with your local colleges, universities and local authorities to find out if your leavers have enrolled in their institutions.

Gatsby Benchmark 4 – Linking curriculum learning to careers

Should I only be working with subject leaders in STEM subjects to deliver careers in the curriculum?

Careers should be embedded in ALL subjects. Our Compass tool only asks about English, Maths and Science and these should be used as an indicator of how a school is performing against this benchmark.

How can I engage subject leaders who are solely focused on exam outcomes?

We understand the pressures subject leaders face to ensure high levels of attainment in their curriculum areas, however, it is important to remember that a school’s SLT and governors are not only interested in exam outcomes but also student destinations.

This has been reinforced in Ofsted’s new inspection framework and accompanying handbooks. It is important that subject teachers are aware of the full range of careers and outcomes for young people. For students to engage in the subject they need to understand the link to progression pathways, careers and outcomes.

Many subject teachers deliver careers activities within their lessons, but it is difficult to keep track of what each subject is doing. How can I overcome this?

We are developing an admin function on our Tracker tool which will allow the Careers Leader to give access to other staff members who can enter activities for their own year group or subject area. If used effectively the Careers Leader will have a complete overview of what is being delivered across the school or college.

Gatsby Benchmark 5 – Encounters with employers and employees

What makes an employer encounter meaningful?

To be meaningful, an encounter with an employer needs to be planned. Students should be prepared and briefed for the encounter, employers should also be briefed and understand the students they are presenting to. The encounter should also be followed up with feedback gained from both students and the employer.

Does a virtual encounter count?

Virtual encounters can be effective, but there should be significant interaction between the employer and students. A video recording with no interaction with the employer would not be considered a meaningful encounter, although could contribute to the career programme in other ways.

Gatsby Benchmark 6 – Experiences of workplaces

There are significant challenges in taking students out of school in term time to gain experiences of the workplace. How can I overcome this?

Schools should consider the flexible approaches recommended in the statutory guidance, which include:

  • Internships and holiday placements
  • Job shadowing
  • Work experience in school
  • Volunteering
  • Work experience (less than 1 week)
  • Work experience (1-2 week block)
  • Work experience (regular/weekly commitment)
  • Workplace visits

Schools should ensure that all activities are planned, have real purpose and are properly monitored and evaluated.

What are the Health & Safety requirements for work experience placements?

We know that Health & Safety is a key concern for staff when considering experiences of the workplace. The Health & Safety Executive have produced some guidance, which you can also share with parents and employers.

Different sectors will have different requirements depending on the nature of the role and it is important to engage with industry bodies and employers to fully understand these.

Gatsby Benchmark 7 – Encounters with further and higher education

My school does not have a sixth form, do I need to provide two encounters with further and higher education?

No, the requirement is one encounter by the age of 16 so you only need to provide one.

I have students who are not considering university, does the two visits apply to them?

The requirements state those ‘who are considering applying for university’. However, you should ensure that students are aware of all options and are encouraged to consider aspirational outcomes. Of course, this does not always mean university.

What is our legal duty on providing access to providers of technical education and apprenticeships?

The government introduced a new legal duty from January 2018. It requires all maintained schools and academies to ensure there is an opportunity for a range of education and training providers to access all pupils – for the purposes of informing them about approved technical education qualifications.

Schools are required to publish a Provider Access Policy on their websites setting out when and how providers can access students through the year.

Do I need to provide encounters and information about all options to all students, even if they are set on going to university?

Yes, it is important that all students, whatever their ability, understand the full range of options available to them so they can make an informed choice when making decisions at 16 and 18. This includes the full range of learning locations and qualifications on offer.

Careers Leaders may need to help teaching staff and others across the school understand all the options available to students.

Gatsby Benchmark 8 – Personal guidance

We don’t have budget to pay a Careers Advisor, can the Careers Leader carry out the guidance interviews?

The key difference between a Careers Leader and a Careers Advisor is that the Careers Leader is the person who is responsible for the strategic plans and delivery of the whole school careers programme. The Careers Advisor, on the other hand, delivers personal guidance to students individually or in group.

It is possible that the Careers Leader also acts as the Careers Advisor if suitably qualified. However, it is important to remember that the Benchmarks outline that every student should have an interview before 16 and one after they are 16. Interviews often last 30 minutes or more. The Careers Leader role, overseeing the whole school careers programme, is a significant task. It therefore may not be realistic for the roles to be combined, particularly for large schools.

Can someone within our current school staff deliver personal guidance?

Many schools are choosing to train someone from within the existing staff to deliver personal guidance, rather than buy it in from an external provider. It is imperative that this person can provide impartial advice. Details on qualifications and training can be found on the CDI website.

We currently have a member of staff completing a level 6 qualification, would this be enough evidence to meet Gatsby Benchmark 8?

The benchmark sets a high standard and states that staff giving one-to-one guidance to students should be qualified to an appropriate level. The CDI also specifies that to be on their register, advisers must be level 6 or above. The government recommends that schools source their providers of personal guidance from this register.