HEPA Blog: What do the Gatsby Benchmarks mean for FE and Sixth Form Colleges?

Wednesday 3rd October 2018

Part of our series of blogs from our Higher Education Progression Advisers: What do the Gatsby Benchmarks mean for FE and Sixth Form Colleges? 

 In 2014, a report produced by the Gatsby Foundation, ‘The Good Career Guidance Report’, set out eight benchmarks that schools could use as a framework for improving their careers provision. The government has since incorporated these Gatsby Career Benchmarks in to its latest careers strategy report, originally published in December 2017.

In February 2018, the government published updated guidance specifically for FE and Sixth Form colleges. The Gatsby Foundation have also produced an updated version of their report, ‘Good Career Guidance – Benchmarks for Colleges’.

What are the Gatsby Benchmarks exactly?

The eight benchmarks for both schools and colleges are:

  1. A stable careers programme
  2. Learning from career and Labour Market Information (LMI)
  3. Addressing the needs of each student
  4. Linking curriculum learning to careers
  5. Encounters with employers and employees
  6. Experiences of workplaces
  7. Encounters with further and higher education
  8. Personal guidance

What is the outcome of the changes ultimately hoped to be?

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

What is changing from September 2018?

Careers Leaders / Careers Leadership Teams

The careers strategy sets out that every college needs a Careers Leader to ‘ensure the leadership and coordination of a high quality careers programme’. In larger colleges, this might be a Careers Leadership team, and these roles are distinct from that of a Careers Adviser.

Government had said that they would make more information and support about establishing Careers Leaders in colleges available ‘by September 2018’, to include ‘a clear description of the roles and responsibilities of a Careers Leader’ and a ‘programme of engagement with colleges…[to] ensure appropriate training and support is developed.’ At the time of writing, it is unclear exactly what shape this will take at the national level.

The Careers and Enterprise Company and Gatsby Foundation have however produced some helpful guidance on establishing Careers Leaders in colleges.

Publication of Careers Programmes

As well as the name and contact details of their Careers Leader, colleges will also be expected to publish details of their careers programmes on their website, ‘so that it is known and understood by learners, parents/carers, college staff, governors and employers’

Encounters with employers and employees for learners

Colleges are to aim to offer learners on 16-19 study programmes of more than 150 hours the opportunity to participate in at least two employer encounters per year, with at least one encounter being delivered through their curriculum area. Furthermore, colleges are expected to offer each student a total of 1 period of work experience with an external employer.

What are the implications for colleges?

The Gatsby Benchmarks are not a statutory framework; however ‘by adopting them, colleges can be confident that they are complying with the careers guidance requirements set out in their funding agreement.’

Some other points that are potentially of consequence for colleges are:

What support is available?

An online self-evaluation tool specifically designed for colleges, Compass, will be released by the Careers and Enterprise Company ‘in the Autumn’. It is currently possible for colleges to use the Compass tool for schools to get an idea of how they are performing against the Gatsby Benchmarks, and this is something many colleges have chosen to do.

There are also plans to release a separate Gatsby Benchmark toolkit for colleges this Autumn.

Additionally, colleges are encouraged to engage with their Enterprise Adviser. Enterprise Advisers are senior business volunteers who can provide colleges with links to the local business community, to support delivery of the Gatsby Benchmarks. Colleges without an Enterprise Adviser can join the network and request one for free.

HeppSY+ is also here to help!

Just a few examples of how HeppSY+ can support with delivery of specific Gatsby Benchmarks include:

HEPA Gatsby Benchmarks