Benchmark 1

A stable careers programme

Every school and college should have an embedded programme of career education and guidance that is known and understood by pupils, parents, teachers and employers.

  • Every school should have a stable, structured careers programme that has the explicit backing of the senior management team, and has an identified and appropriately trained person responsible for it.
  • The careers programme should be published on the school’s website in a way that enables pupils, parents, teachers and employers to access and understand it.
  • The programme should be regularly evaluated with feedback from pupils, parents, teachers and employers as part of the evaluation process.

The first rung in building a structured career ladder for all students comes from strong leadership and a committed senior management team. The pilot in the North East showcases the importance of every school having a Career Leader who can drive forward all eight benchmarks in the school. 

Stories from the North East Pilot

Leadership, vision and tracking

Schools and colleges across the pilot have shown that a Career Leader needs to be supported by leadership and have the authority to deliver a strategy and conduct the orchestra of career guidance across the school. Embarking on using the framework of the benchmarks, with buy in from all staff, will make the process much simpler. It is, however, something which requires regular review, evaluation and adaptation.

At Excelsior Academy, the chair of governors is also the governor with responsibility for careers, and one of the Vice Principals acts as a Career Leader with strategic responsibility for the quality and impact of the careers programme. They are supported by a careers activities coordinator and a work experience coordinator as well as dedicated team of ‘careers champions’, staff who implement and deliver the careers plan across the school. Careers guidance is now built into the fabric of the school, with the benchmarks being built into the appraisal and performance review of staff at all levels, including that of the headteacher.

The Link School appointed a member of the senior management team to be the Career Leader for the entire school. They have responsibility for creating and rolling out a series of programmes throughout the year matched to the benchmarks. Employing the right member of staff to become the Careers Leader is key. If the Careers Leader is not a member of the senior leadership team (SLT) they should report to a member of the SLT who has strategic responsibility for careers education.


Deon Krishnan, Career Leader at Excelsior Academy in Newcastle

Benchmark 1 states that schools need to provide information about their careers offer in a manner accessible to staff, students, parents, carers and employers. To achieve this, The King Edward IV school built a dedicated careers website. Young people particularly appreciate being able to access relevant careers information from home and it also gives parents and carers the opportunity to get involved.

Evaluating their current position against the benchmarks was a powerful first step for all the schools and colleges involved. With input from the pilot institutions, Gatsby and the Careers & Enterprise Company have developed a free tool for schools that enables them to evaluate themselves against the benchmarks and track their progress overtime. This can be found at:

You’ll see that the tool gives you an immediate read-out of how your school performs against the eight benchmarks, so you celebrate your successes and then focus on the areas that most need development.

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Top tips

  • Marie Jobson, Career Leader at Churchill Community College
    "In order to ensure that we met Benchmark 1 a large amount of research and cross referencing took place with external providers, quality awards and the CDI. This ensured that we created a framework for careers guidance which feels robust and comprehensive."
  • Ryan Gibson, National Facilitator for the Career Benchmarks Pilot at the North East LEP
    "As part of writing a career education policy carry out an audit: you’ll be surprised what you’re already doing, and you’ll have a focus for what to put in the policy. You will find using Compass ( useful as part of this process."

The Gatsby Benchmarks have given us a coherent framework – something to hang our hats on

Headteacher, Pilot School