Are meeting Gatsby Benchmarks & improving student outcomes two different things?

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

Unfortunately, the more time I spend working towards meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks, the less time I feel I am spending on improve our student's outcomes. Please note; this is not a criticism of Gatsby or the CEC, I think the implementation of the benchmarks has done wonders in terms of making careers a priority and showing us all what we should be doing to meet the baseline of good careers guidance for our young people. For those of you outside of the Careers world, I may have lost you in paragraph one. To clarify, CEC (Careers Enterprise Company) are funded by the Government to improve School's Careers offering. In order to do this, they have implemented the Gatsby Benchmarks. There are 8 benchmarks that set out basic guidelines of what schools should be doing to improve outcomes for their students. This has been added to Ofsted framework, making it a priority for senior leaders in schools (hurrah!). However, working on the ground in careers, I can tell you, it doesn't always feel as though our work is both meeting Gatsby and improving outcomes. Let me put this in to perspective... Example one: Every student has to visit two FE establishments in order for a school to meet Gatsby. However, we have a large number of students in every year group who already know that a) the career they want to go in to doesn't need a degree (i.e. a trade) or b) that they want to obtain their degree by doing an apprenticeship. We take them on their first trip to Uni (thousands of pounds in coach travel) and they still feel it isn't for them. Taking them on a second trip is not going to improve that student's outcome, but we have to do it in order to meet the benchmark... Crazy, right? Example two: All of our students at Swindon Academy have a careers meeting in Year 11 and again in Year 13. This has always happened and was in place before Gatsby BM8 told us we had to do this. Fine, good, students are getting impartial advice. However, despite the fact that I am qualified to a Level 6 certificate level in Careers Leadership and have been working in the space for several years, attending CPD sessions every few months to keep on top of the various changes to apprenticeships, T Levels, Degree options etc... I am not seen as an professional careers advisor. "Why?" I hear you ask, simply because I haven't got my full level 6 diploma. This has meant that we have had to use money that would usually go towards IMPROVING STUDENT OUTCOMES for me to get my qualifications so we can MEET GATSBY. See where I am coming from? Actions to meet Gatsby are not the same actions that we would take to improve student outcomes and, to me, this feels wrong. They should coincide so that as we work to improve outcomes for our students, Gatsby is met along the way. I would love to hear other careers professionals, or professionals from other sectors, view on this. Take care, Jess

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