Claire Critchley - Programme Manager for School Leadership at Teach First
Claire Critchley
School Leadership Programme Manager at Teach First

How careers leaders are levelling up our pupils’ life chances

Disadvantaged students have less opportunities after school than their wealthier peers—however, new research shows that solid careers education can help improve their odds.

High-quality careers education can make all the difference to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are often less able to access quality information and opportunities than their more affluent peers. We need to ensure that every child, irrespective of their background, leaves with the right qualifications and guidance to boost their chances of success after school.

We recently ran an analysis of DfE data that reveals a significant destinations gap between disadvantaged pupils and their wealthier peers five years after they finish their GCSEs. This shows that:

  • 1 in 3 (33%) poorer young people are not in sustained work or education 5 years after GCSEs, compared to 1 in 7 (14%) of their wealthier peers
  • young people from disadvantaged background (13%) are almost twice as likely to drop out of their A-Level course compared to non-disadvantaged peers (7%)
  • disadvantaged pupils are more likely to end up out of sustained work or education (33%) than they are to go to university (27%).

This simply isn’t fair.

Careers education plays a vital role in making sure that all young people can sustain positive outcomes once they leave school, regardless of their background or connections.

How Teach First supports careers education in schools

As we prepare to launch our next cohort of the Careers Leader programme in October 2022, we’re pleased to announce we are a Careers and Enterprise Company-funded training provider of careers leader training for the fifth year running.

Since our initial careers leader pilot in 2015, we’ve been champions of the careers leader role gaining visibility and seniority in school. This reflects the rigour and quality of the training route, and the leadership capabilities required to perform the role in school.

When our 2022 - 2023 programme commences, we will have supported over 438 careers leaders through our Careers Leader training. We know that careers education plays a huge role in levelling up outcomes for the poorest children—we’re really proud that through these individuals, over 328,000 pupils have benefitted from a structured, stable, evidence-informed careers curriculum led by an effective leader with the backing of the wider leadership team and school community.

Our Careers Leader programme provides targeted support to help schools build the foundations for long-term improvement. We do this by supporting careers leaders to evaluate their current provision and create a three-year, whole school strategy that’s personalised to their school’s needs.

While we provide the training and support for their whole school careers strategy, careers leaders are the everyday heroes in schools who inspire, influence and make a lasting impact for their young people. Hear what careers leaders have to say about their proudest achievements: 


The impact of Teach First’s Careers Leader programme

We can see this impact on destinations and outcomes. Our 2019-2020 programme members achieved an increase in the average number of Gatsby benchmarks (the government framework that makes sure all students receive high quality careers education) from 3.2 before the programme to 4.8 one year after completing the programme. This is a considerably faster rate of progress than schools who haven't taken part in Careers Leader training.

Long term study of our 2017- 2018 cohort also shows that 53% of programme members saw an increase in the number of students moving onto sustained education or employment after leaving school, compared to schools who didn’t take part in the Careers Leader programme. While we can’t demonstrate that being part of the Careers Leader programme directly caused the increase in improved student destinations, we believe it’s one of the contributing factors affecting the change.

Tackling further challenges in careers education

For our 2022 - 2023 programme, we continue to make improvements to reflect the changing world of work and the school environment careers leaders are working in.

The pandemic brought significant challenges for schools in delivering careers education. This included the lack of digital devices – not only for young people to complete academic work – but to hone vital career development work, and restrictions on work experience opportunities. Businesses also fear that the lost learning will aggravate the UK’s skills shortage, which stresses the importance of building skills into the curriculum to help young people develop competencies that employers value.

As it stands, Gatsby Benchmarks 5 (encounters with employers), 6 (experiences of the workplace) and 7 (encounters with higher and further education) have taken a hit nationwide due to the pandemic. Both schools and external organisations need support to re-establish those connections. Our curriculum will support careers leaders to build their external network, drawing on the expertise of our business partners to build an engagement strategy that maximises opportunities to engage with students both virtually and in-person.

We know teachers and leaders continue to grapple with the impact of the pandemic on students and families. We’ve listened to feedback and developed our online learning content with busy professionals in mind, with flexible pathways through the curriculum and a workload-friendly time commitment. We’ve kept two in-person conferences to support valuable connections with peers and access to sector experts, with a third virtual conference to minimise time away from school in the busy exam season.

Join us in our fight for fairer careers education

Beyond our Careers Leader programme, we’re advocating for a series of reforms that would increase the effectiveness of careers education for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our recommendations include:

  • better careers education and funding in primary schools
  • greater effort from employers to improve social mobility
  • a wider range of other reforms

Read more about these recommendations in our report Rethinking careers education: investing in our country's future.  

With the help of our generous corporate supporters and our continued partnership with the Careers and Enterprise Company, we can ensure that careers leaders working in schools facing the biggest challenges are able to engage with this training at no cost to themselves or their school.

Find how your school can access our fully-funded careers training.

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