Jenny Griffiths
Jenny Griffiths
Education Research Specialist at Teach First

Teach First Research Roundup: Spring 2022

As National Careers Week rolls around, we explore the impact of careers education in a post-pandemic working world.

National Careers Week is just around the corner (7-12 March), where educators will gather to celebrate everything related to careers guidance, and supporting young people moving from education into employment. 2022 sees a virtual careers fair for students and educators to take advantage of, and many schools will be running their own events and activities.

Additionally, March 2022 marks a two-year anniversary since the first lockdown in response to COVID-19, with schools closed to all but a minority of pupils. Since then, there have been further closures, with many pupils absent from school often on multiple occasions. The impact on their education is immense, but the impact on their wellbeing and outlook is only just coming to light. A recent report by The Prince’s Trust found that one in five young people feel they will fail in life, and almost a quarter of young people from poorer backgrounds think their life will amount to nothing, no matter how hard they try. Being out of work or education can lead to a feeling of hopelessness. All of this makes careers guidance and education essential for ensuring that all children and young people have the opportunity to succeed.

Significant reforms have been made to qualifications in recent years, with the introduction of the EBaccalaureate and T Levels having a notable impact on academic versus vocational pathways in schools. The government want to support more young people into apprenticeships, and there is evidence that schools and colleges are providing more opportunities for young people to learn about a full range of apprenticeships available. The Gatsby Benchmarks have been widely adopted as a framework for quality, and Ofsted are required to comment on careers guidance provided, in their inspection reports as part of their judgement of the personal development offer in schools. Early indicators suggest a link between schools with high Gatsby Benchmark completion and a reduction in the numbers of pupils who do not go on to confirmed, sustained, positive destinations post-16 compared to similar schools.


1. Careers leaders in schools (5 mins)

2. Selected research on careers leadership in schools (2 mins)

3. Further research related to careers education (3 mins)


Careers leaders in schools

The Careers Leader programme at Teach First aims to equip teachers and leaders in charge of careers education in school with the expertise they need. They make progress towards achieving all eight Gatsby Benchmarks, and build leadership skills to design a careers strategy with whole-school impact. The programme has been running since 2016 so we have gathered a wealth of data and experience to draw on.

7 insights from our research to date:

  1. Programme satisfaction on the Careers Leader programme is very high, at over 95% although we know that careers leaders face challenges with finding time to fully engage alongside other duties in school. This reflects how important the commitment and support of senior leaders is to programme members.
  2. Satisfaction levels were higher among those programme members who were more experienced in working in careers. 100% of those who had been working in careers for 3 or more years were either satisfied or very satisfied, as were Assistant or Deputy Heads on the programme. Those working in careers for less than 1 year were a little less satisfied overall, but particularly had a significantly lower proportion expressing that they were ‘very satisfied’. This year has a particularly high % of Assistant and Deputy Heads on the programme (41%), but also a higher % that have been working in careers for less than a year, so we are looking at what this means for how we pitch the level of the course. It may also potentially reflect other changes in school careers provision and leadership, which we will investigate further.
  3. Careers Leaders on the programme reported increases in confidence, knowledge and skills, with a positive impact on the way they approach their role. Importantly, non-programme members (for example other leaders within their schools) indicated a positive impact at both individual and school level as a result of the programme. We find that careers leaders are more equipped to secure backing from senior leaders as a result of the programme.
  4. Whilst virtual delivery of training has brought a raft of benefits, there is no doubt that the loss of all face-to-face elements is a drawback. Some careers leaders joining from school found that they were more likely to be called away with other duties, particularly when seminars were held at lunchtimes. They also missed the opportunities to interact with other careers leaders.
  5. A desire in connecting with and learning from other careers leaders on the programme is increasingly a key motivation for many joining the programme. This has been a challenge whilst restrictions have been in place, but enabling careers leaders to form greater connections is also a key area for improvement, particularly within the context of a more blended approach to programme delivery.
  6. Peer learning visits and other means of connecting with peers for discussion and support were highly valued, but the timing was challenging and they were in competition with a heavy workload and effectiveness varied as a result.
  7. Personal support from development leads was the most engaged with activity of the course, and had the highest value perception. Careers Leaders identified this support as important for tailoring the programme to their own school’s context.
What does this mean for Teach First?

Our improvement priorities for the Careers Leader programme include creating effective opportunities for programme members to build connections with their peers. Teach First Ambassadors who have already completed the Careers Leader programme are invited to contribute to delivery or provide individual support for programme members. We are also supporting the TF Careers Network to bring together careers educators and leaders of careers education. They are in the process of creating and launching local and regional hubs to build valuable business connections with schools. These are run by Teach First ambassadors but open to all careers leaders. They aim to provide support for strategic improvements and developing valuable local business connections. The network has strong links with the Careers and Enterprise Company and has recently connected with Robert Halfon, MP who champions careers education.. 

There is also a Student Employer Network that will be publishing a guide in March for businesses to support them in providing high-quality outreach opportunities for students. Written by four Teach First ambassadors, we hope that this will encourage even greater collaboration and cooperation between schools and businesses to support the provision of high quality outreach offers for pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.    

We are always seeking continuous improvement of our programmes, and peer learning visits offer a fantastic opportunity for careers leaders to learn from each other and the experiences in other schools. However, our evaluation suggests that their purpose has not always been well understood and they often lose out to other priorities. We will be exploring ways of making these visits more practical and timely for future cohorts. 

In our manifesto, we are reasserting our commitment to give every child a fighting chance. Access to high-quality careers education is an essential part of developing the aspirations of the next generation and supporting them to access a wide range of opportunities in further and higher education, or in work through apprenticeships and employment. We want to increase the numbers of schools achieving the Gatsby Benchmarks to give young people a better chance of achieving their potential. But we are also calling for a framework to expand effective careers and work-related learning in primary schools. For this to work, we need the government to fully fund training of careers leaders in schools in disadvantaged areas. We intended to expand upon and develop our careers-related recommendations in a forthcoming policy report, to be released in the summer.

What does this mean for schools?

We know that the impact of careers education is greatest when the careers’ strategy is part of the overall school strategy and firmly embedded in relevant areas. For this to happen, senior leadership buy-in is crucial. This makes careers education the responsibility of every teacher and member of staff in a school, and not just that of the careers leader. It is essential that senior leaders ensure that Careers Leaders have access to training, and sufficient time to plan and implement strategies, as well as to connect with peers and businesses.

Access to digital devices and the internet are essential today, particularly for disadvantaged students. Considering ways to support pupils to access online work experience could be hugely beneficial, either through providing devices, or even access to technology in school that will enable them to participate in such events.

National Careers Week is 7-12 March 2022. There is a virtual careers fair that students can participate in and many resources for those organising careers-related events and activities.


Selected research on careers leadership

  • The Gatsby Benchmarks are a non-statutory set of indicators that align with the legal requirements placed on schools to provide independent careers education. Expectations on meeting statutory and contractual careers requirements are structured around the eight Gatsby Benchmarks in guidance documentation.
  • Hanson and Neary (2019) highlight the importance of strong institutional leadership and distribution of accountability for high quality careers provision in order to make progress in achieving the benchmarks in full. They include the need for a Governor who oversees careers provision and a skilled careers leader in post with authority to make changes.
  • DfE guidance (2021) talks of careers leaders as the ‘critical factor in the development and implementation of an effective strategic careers plan’. (p.15). They should be a dedicated professional who is either a member of, or works closely with, the senior leadership team.
  • Research by the Careers and Enterprise Company (2021) found that training for careers leaders led to increased knowledge across the four core areas of leadership, management, coordination and networking. The impact was seen in actions implemented in schools with updated strategic careers programmes and faster progress towards meeting the Gatsby benchmarks.
  • Simon Wareham at Southmoor Academy, and Mike Britland, Teach First Development Lead (Careers), talk about using the Compass+ tracking tool to gain oversight of student performance and destinations data.


Further research related to careers education

  • Robert Halfon, MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee wrote a blog for the Careers Network in February 2022, about the recently opened inequiry into Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) for children and young people. He highlights a skills crisis and the fall in funding per student aged 16-18 by 11% in real terms over the past decade. He calls for a parity of esteem between vocation and technical skills and academic learning, which he believes requires a change in the culture of careers advice.
  • The Careers and Enterprise Company (2021) reported on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. They found reduced opportunities for young people to experience the workplace, with only 39% of schools reporting that most of their year 11 students had access to a workplace experience in 2021. There was a consensus that virtual approaches could usefully complement face-to-face engagement in the future.
  • The Gatsby Foundation (2020) also found the main impact of COVID-19 on careers education in 2019/20 was the the lack of face-to-face contact, and the cancelling of work experience. For many teachers and schools, engaging young people virtually was challenging due to lack of devices or internet connections.
  • Research by The Careers and Enterprise Company (2021) linking destinations data to Compass returns has shown a positive link between the Gatsby Benchmarks and the likelihood of a student being in education, employment, or training. After controlling for levels of disadvantage, school type, academic grades, and location, there was a statistically significant relationship between school Gatsby Benchmarks and sustained education, employment and training destinations for 2017/18 year 11 leavers (the most recent cohort for whom data is available). The relationship was considered particularly strong among the most disadvantaged quarter of schools.
  • Research by Chambers, Percy and Rogers (2020) suggests a disconnect between the career aspirations of young people and the jobs available. Extending and improving carers education in schools and colleges could help to reduce this disconnect, along with employer engagement.
  • STEM industries are the current key focus as a driver of economic growth in UK policy, and therefore across the education sector more widely. The literature suggests that some children have narrow and limited understanding of the relevance of science to careers beyond stereotypical roles of doctors and science teachers (Kashefpakdel, Rehill, Hughes, 2018).
  • The British Academy (2020) emphasised the importance of the arts, humanities and social sciences in ensuring the development of an education and skill system which will build societies in which we want to live. Graduates who study arts, humanities and social sciences are highly employable across a range of sectors and roles, with skills valued by employers.
  • Skills for Jobs was the White Paper published by the DfE in 2021, setting out their plans for reforms to further education to support people in developing the skills needed for our economy. They seek to put employers at the heart of the system to ensure education and training leads to jobs that can improve productivity and fill skills gaps. There is an emphasis on investing in higher-level technical qualifications as a valuable alternative to a university degree.
  • Anders and Macmillan (2021) explore low levels of financial literacy in the UK, particularly among those in lower socio-economic group. This may have an impact upon young people and social inequalities with implications for how schools and colleges design financial education. They found differences in financial education and parental interaction between socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged children.


We’d love to hear any feedback on our research series moving forward. To get in touch, please email

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