Teach First ambassador Alanna Jones
Alanna Jones
Assistant Vice Principal at Hillside High School
Programme cohort
2018 Careers Leader programme

Careers Leader: How I made careers education a priority at my school

Alanna joined our Careers Leader programme to strengthen careers provision for her pupils and get all staff to embed it into their lessons. Here’s her story. 

When I became responsible for leading careers provision at my school, I felt I had a good grasp of what effective careers provision looked like. I knew which Gatsby benchmarks we were meeting, and which ones we needed to improve on. But I lacked confidence in how to achieve this through the development of an effective, long-term strategy.

In my first year I organised several careers events and activities, and we improved our Gatsby rating. However, these were standalone and not part of a bigger strategy. There was also little interest amongst wider staff, as they felt careers education was only down to one or two key people in the school.

When I started the Careers Leader programme,  I realised how much more there was to learn about effective careers provision.

Through networking, sharing experience and individual support and feedback, I began to get a grasp of how to get a good careers strategy going.

I found the online elements of the Careers Leader programme particularly useful as I could complete them at my own pace. The tasks were great for not only improving my knowledge about careers guidance, but also developing the wider leadership skills needed to share that knowledge.

There’s been a huge shift for careers education in my school over the last 12 months.

In every lesson, pupils are monitored through the school’s information management system (SIMS). They’re given codes linking to their attitude to learning, which are all based around employability skills. All staff use SIMS to log careers activities or events, meaning we can get a whole-school picture at the click of a button.

All trips and events are checked against Gatsby benchmarks, and staff are encouraged to view any event as an opportunity to discuss careers. For example, a recent theatre visit began with a discussion of some of the roles behind the scenes. 

We’ve also developed a strategy called ‘Career 500’: a commitment that every pupil will be exposed to over 500 different careers during their time at school.

Sadly, we lost a lot of planned events due to COVID-19.

I’ve had to think creatively about the opportunities our upcoming Year 11 may have missed out on. I’m looking at the possibility of a day’s job shadowing in place of work experience, and I’m working closely with colleges to ensure pupils feel confident making their own post-16 choices.

A priority for careers provision during the crisis has been making sure Year 11s have a confirmed college place for September. We’ve been working closely with colleges, pupils and their families to ensure a smooth transition.

Careers education is now viewed as everyone’s responsibility at the school, and it’s regularly talked about in lessons.

There are displays around the school showing different careers in the various subject areas, and many departments have started to develop their own careers programmes and employer networks. This all sits alongside the whole school careers provision – it’s no longer a series of ad hoc and unrelated events.

It’s still a work in progress, and next year will be a challenge as we adjust to  life in school following a pandemic, but with the help of the Careers Leader programme we’re now on our way to developing a coherent strategy that shows progression each year.


Every child deserves support to reach their full potential. To find out how your school could benefit from free careers training, visit our Careers Leader programme page.

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