Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Careers and the curriculum

Recent developments for careers education and guidance

The Education Bill 2011 passed in July 2011 is part of the Government’s education reform programme taking forward the legislative proposals in the Schools White Paper, The Importance of Teaching. It also means significant changes to careers education in schools and careers guidance services. By September 2012 schools will have a new statutory duty to secure independent careers guidance for pupils in Years 9-11 provided by those who are not employed at or by the school. There are consultations on extending the duty to Year 8 and Year 13. 'Careers guidance' is defined as impartial, including information on options in 16-18 learning and in the best interests of the pupils. This means that schools will make decisions about the careers education and guidance young people will receive. To implement this, it is envisaged that there will be a range of providers, including the all-age careers service, Local Authority services, private providers and individuals.

Details of the future changes in careers guidance and careers education are outlined in the following two presentations:

Back to the top

The case for careers education and guidance

Contribution taken from Establishing World Class Careers Education and Guidance in Connexions Kent & Medway: A literature review (2007)

Over the past decade or so, career guidance services have undergone fundamental and rapid changes throughout the UK. These include devolution, which brought with it four different country models of delivery. The ‘massification’ of higher education has seen an increase in student numbers participating in education post-16, with a widening access agenda and the introduction of student fees (in England). Information was distinguished from advice and guidance for resource purposes by a policy framework for adults in England, with eligibility criteria for some services dependent on qualification level (that is, pre-level 2). A focus on the NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) group of young people became a policy priority with the introduction of the Connexions service in England, as part of the government’s agenda around social inclusion. Finally, a fundamental re-organisation of careers education and guidance in compulsory education in England is in prospect. Many of these changes have brought with them extended periods or uncertainty and instability, followed by re-organisation and change (Bimrose, 2006), through which both organisations and individuals in the sector have been both expected, and required, to deliver a high quality service to their clients.

Various publications, for example, the ‘14-19 Education and Skills Implementation Plan’ (Department for Education and Skills, 2005e), the White Paper ‘Skills: Getting on in business, getting on at work’ (Department for Education and Sills, 2005a) and ‘Youth Matters’ (Department for Education and Skills, 2005f), have all identified CEG, or information, advice and guidance (IAG), as an important factor in supporting young people in making successful transitions from education into the labour market. Indeed, a study which used data from the British National Child Development Study to explore the determinants of career expectations formed at the age of 16, found that career expectations at 16 are an important determinant of human capital accumulation which, in turn, is a key determinant of actual occupational status (Brown, Sessions and Taylor, 2004). From this, it would appear, therefore, that the role of CEG in raising career expectations and aspirations of pupils is crucial. Additionally, an earlier review of evidence published in 1999 concluded that, in addition to helping pupils make and implement career decisions, CEG may have benefits in enhancing pupil motivation and attainment. It may, therefore, not only be of intrinsic value, but also enhance broader school effectiveness (Killeen, Sammons and Watts, 1999).

A systematic literature review of recent literature published from 1988 to 2003 focused on the impact of CEG on career transitions from Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4 (Moon et al., 2004). Overall, the evidence suggests that provision of CEG varies from school to school, depending on a range of factors that can be seen as indicators of quality including: school policy and management; content and organisation of CEG programmes; qualifications of teaching staff designated to deliver CEG; standards of students' work; and library resources. The research implies that these factors affect the transition of young people. Where provision is good, the impact on young people in transition appears to be positive. Other influencing factors are parents, socioeconomic background and gender. One implication drawn from this review was that more research is needed. In particular, the current lack of differentiation between the management and delivery of CEG at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 should be addressed explicitly in future research reports. The study concluded that students have differing CEG needs at each Key Stage and that it was important that CEG should be promoted from Year 7 onwards. Variable standards regarding staff training were noted, together with the lack of suitably qualified teachers. The potential existed for parents' contributions to be more fully utilised and access to careers library resources required improvement. Overall, a coherent strategy across the key stages is lacking.

A second literature review which focused on a similar period (1988 to 2004), adopted a slightly different emphasis, examining the impact of CEG during Key Stage 4 on young people's transitions into post-16 opportunities (Smith et al., 2005). Findings revealed how the level of young people's career-related skills seems to be an important factor in their transition at 16, with those possessing a high level of skills being less likely to modify choices or switch courses. CEG provision appears to have a positive impact on this. Many findings overlapped with the literature review on Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 provision (Moon et al., 2004). It was concluded that provision of information about post-16 options is patchy and needs to be designed in a way that is relevant and appropriate to its target audience. Additionally, initiatives were found to be more effective when given a long enough timescale and sufficient resources.

Conclusions from a study of young people’s perceptions of CEG not included in the literature reviews cited above, supports the notion that whilst CEG makes many positive contributions, it could achieve much more: ‘there is much unfulfilled potential in current careers education and guidance provision and delivery mechanisms to make CEG more attractive and relevant to its young clients’ (Stoney et al., 1998, p.46). The young people who participated in this particular study greatly valued certain elements of their CEG programmes, but were critical of others. Overall, they were ‘anxious to receive careers education and guidance that provided them with information, advice and experience which was both individual and specific’ (p.31). They also wanted differentiated provision (according to individual need) and their CEG to be practical and unbiased (p. 25). From various research studies over the past decade, therefore, the case for effective CEG in schools is strong.

Back to the top

Evidence and impact of careers education and guidance

Careers and guidance-related interventions

Evidence and Impact: Careers and guidance-related interventions (2009)

The aim of this research project, funded by the CfBT Education Trust, was to inform the evidence base for careers and guidance - related interventions within an Integrated Youth Support Service (IYSS) context in England. Three key resources have been produced:

The synthesis report provides an insight into key facts, impact statements, strategies, tools and tips that can be used as a basis for impact assessment and continuous development for organisations, managers and practitioners operating within a youth policy context. This report also sets the context for our new online professional resource designed to make available international and national research evidence on the impact of careers and guidance-related interventions. The online resource has been designed to deliver a flexible and adaptable set of materials, incorporating an interactive hyperlink approach to allow users to tap into the materials suitable to their individual needs.

The research also incorporated a literature review of over 100 sources of evidence covering the impact of careers and guidance - related interventions. This review aimed to identifying the key factors involved in effective interventions and assessed the evidence for impact of a broad range of providers, and for a broad range of customers.

Impact of careers education and guidance on transitions from Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4 (2004)

A systematic review into recent research (1988-2003) into the impact of careers education and guidance on transitions from Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4. The aims of the review were to:

  • To investigate the effects of CEG during KS 3 (ages 11 to 13) on the transitions made by young people from KS 3 to 4 (age 13) and on young people's learning and development during KS 4 (ages 13 to 16)
  • To assess the influence of 'internal' and 'external' factors on the outcomes of transitions, such as young people's motivation and capabilities, parental involvement, socio-economic constraints, demography, family relationships, support services and environmental factors
  • To relate the outcomes to policy developments in careers education and guidance since 1995 in England in order to assess their impact on practice within and outside schools
  • To make recommendations based on the findings, designed to inform future policy and practice, and to ensure that decisions are evidence-based.

Review question:

  • What is the impact of CEG policies and practice during KS 3 (ages 11 to 13) on young people's transitions from KS 3 to KS 4 (at age 13) and on their learning and personal development during KS 4 (ages 13 to 16)?

The following sub-questions are also considered:

  • How does careers education and guidance affect the transition process and/or learning and motivation?
  • What internal and external factors modify the effects of careers education and guidance?

The full text can be downloaded here A systematic review of recent research into the impact of careers education and guidance on transitions from Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4 (1988 – 2003).

Impact of careers education and guidance during Key Stage 4 young people's trnsitions into post-16 opportunities (2005)

The overall aim of the review is to identify the available research evidence (1988-2004) in a systematic and objective way in order to ascertain the role and impact of CEG at Key Stage 4 (ages 14-16), on young people's transitions from Key Stage 4 to post-compulsory education, employment and training.The specific aims of the study were:

  • To conduct a systematic review of research evidence investigating the effects of CEG during Key Stage 4 on the transitions made by young people from Key Stage 4 to post-16 opportunities
  • Where CEG has taken place, to assess the influence of internal and external factors, which might include young people's motivation and capabilities, parental involvement, socio-economic constraints, demography, family relationships, support services and environmental factors, on the impact of CEG during Key Stage 4 in relation to the outcomes of transitions
  • To relate this to policy developments in CEG since 1988 in England (when the Education Reform Act led to the introduction of the National Curriculum) in order to assess their impact on practice within and outside schools
  • To make recommendations based on these findings so that decisions on policy and practice can be evidence-based

The research question, considered within the context of the reforms to secondary education set out in 14-19: Opportunity and Excellence (DfES, 2003), is as follows:

  • What is the impact of CEG policies and practice during Key Stage 4 (ages 14-16) on young people's transitions from Key Stage 4 to post-16 opportunities?

The following sub-question was also considered:

  • In what ways do internal/external factors influence the effectiveness and outcomes of career education and guidance?

The full text can be downloaded here A systematic review of research (1988–2004) into the impact of career education and guidance during Key Stage 4 young people’s transitions into post-16 opportunities.

Back to the top

Recent research on young peoples' views and IAG

The National Youth Agency was asked to find out what young people think about the information, advice and guidance (IAG) they receive on careers, educational choices and other life issues. To find out, they held a series of focus groups with 79 young people between the ages of 13 and 21 in London and the South West of England; in schools, alternative education settings and youth groups. In all the focus groups, young people said that they value good advice. They know that information, advice and guidance that is timely, relevant and accurate is essential in helping them overcome a range of problems; from those facing them now, such as education choices, and money worries, to concerns about the future, such as careers and health. For more information see Face-to-Face: What young people think about information, advice and guidance (Young people's report) (National Youth Agency, 2010)

The Local Government Association commissioned the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to undertake research to identify improvement and support needs for LAs ahead of the planned government IAG review. The key objectives of our research were to evaluate the current ‘fitness for purpose’ of the IAG services provided to young people in the 14–19 context and to identify areas where a programme of support and improvement may be necessary. Findings report that IAG services were widely perceived to contribute to raising learners’ aspirations and learners were seen to be provided with support from a range of IAG providers and/or partners who understood their roles and responsibilities. For more information see Information, advice and guidance for young people (LG Group Research Report, 2010).

Back to the top

What does 'career' mean to you?

Dr Deirdre Hughes, chair of the National Careers Council in England, and her team took to the streets of London to find out what the ordinary man and woman in the street think about the idea of a career and the support available to them.

Produced with the support of Barclays Life Skills, this video includes interviews with Adviza, the Association of School & College Leaders, the Federation of Small Businesses and the National Careers Institute.

Back to top

Web resources

Evidence of Education - The Evidence for Education (EfE) website is the CfBT Education Trust Research Programme. It provides research evidence for education and the profession.

Department for Education - Up-to-date news on the role of schools and local authorities in careers guidance

Cegnet - The Cegnet website for professionals working in careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) and their supporters.

Back to the top

Careers and curriculum further resources

All things being equal? Equality and diversity in careers education, information, advice and guidance (2011)

The All things being equal? research identifies and assesses the equality impact of CEIAG policy and practice for children and young people aged seven to 16 on young people’s destinations post-16. It includes both a detailed exploration of the role of CEIAG in opening up opportunities and an examination of young people’s academic and vocational choices. The research is the first of its kind in this area to focus on young people across the equality strands, including gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief and groups including Gypsy, Roma and Travellers (GRT), young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) and teenage mothers. The research also looks at how socio-economic status affects aspirations and achievement, and adds additional insight to the findings of the Commission’s Triennial Review.

The Wolf Report (2011)

The Wolf Report considers how vocational education for 14- to 19-year-olds can be improved in order to promote successful progression into the labour market and into higher level education and training routes, and provides practical recommendations to help inform future policy direction, taking into account current financial constraints.

Quality Standards for Young People’s Information and Advice (DCSF, 2008)

The DCSF Quality Standards document and Statutory Guidance sets out a framework for planning, managing and reviewing information, advice and guidance services in a locality. Although these have been superseded by the Education Bill 2011, both provide useful definitions and guidance for IAG provision.

CEG in England: a brief history and views for the future (2005)

Contribution by David Andrews

This powerpoint presentation provides a brief historical perspective on careers education and guidance over the past 18 years, together with suggestions for future improvements. This was presented by David Andrews at the Institute of Career Guidance conference (2 February 2005).

Careers Education and Citizenship (2004)

An Occasional Paper contributed from the Department of Career & Personal Development at Canterbury Christ Church University College entitled Careers Education and Citizenship: an inclusive agenda (Arthur, Breslin, Law, Barnes, Barker, & Irvine, 2004). This occasional paper presents 5 essays which explore different aspects of the inter-face between careers education and guidance and citizenship education. The paper aims to encourage dialogue around how to achieve more integration in the curriculum, for the ultimate benefit for the young people who are the consumers. Titles of the essays are as follows:

  • Citizenship: Challenges for Educators, by James Arthur
  • Citizenship, 'Subject Building' and the Rethinking of 'Subject', by Tony Breslin
  • Careers Education and Citizenship: For Tinker, Tailor, Worker, Citizen! by Bill Law
  • Careership, Citizenship and Inclusion - a perspective on schools, by Anthony Barnes
  • Citizenship for all: engaging Muslim girls in the career education process, by Vivienne Barker and Barrie Irving.
  • Careers Education and Citizenship: an inclusive agenda (2004)

New Thinking for Connexions and Citizenship (2001)

Contribution by Bill Law

Bill Law published a iCegs Occasional Paper called New Thinking for Connexions and Citizenship in 2001. Although dated, this paper is useful asit plots the development of career theory from 1900 to the present day and and makes the case for embracing theory in practice, and points out the parallel development in policy and theory. It also includes details of the DOTS model (which considers Self; Opportunities; Decisions and Transition) and updates it with the new SeSiFu dimension: of Sensing; Sifting; Focusing and Understanding. If DOTS is the coverage of what is learned, SeSiFu sets out the learning process: 'how people learn, not what they learn'.

Back to the top

Summary of a discussion on how career guidance should relate to the curriculum

Comment 1: We don't know what kind of partnership to set up between career guidance and the curriculum.
This confusion exists in both compulsory and post 16 education. Is this true? Does this matter?

Comment 2: If careers education cannot currently find a space in the curriculum how would /will careers guidance fair?

The 1999 survey of Careers Education and Guidance in British schools by NACGT maintains that CEG is:

  • a "contested concept"
  • a "goodwill curriculum"
  • under resourced and that school arrangements can help or hinder its delivery

Given the new statutory requirement in England and the development of the National Framework for CEG and the QCA learning outcomes perhaps this position will change but it may be too early to speculate how this will effect careers guidance.

In Scotland the prospect is even less positive where we have no statutory requirement for the delivery of Careers Education. It is argued (SCAGES)that teaching is an activity of guidance and given the above it may be the careers aspect that brings the difficulty.

Comment 3: The role of CEG in different educational settings

It does seem that CEG is being squeezed right out of the curriculum, at the same time that it is taking a more prominent role in the curriculum in HE. Is this driven by the emphasis now placed on 'employability' of graduates? Or funding? Both? Others?

Comment 4: The precarious position of CEG in compulsory education

Careers education in schools pretty-much clings to the edge of timetable - with a precarious finger-hold on the already-overloaded ‘pshe’. So why do I think it possible that curriculum will yet prove to be one of the most significant features in the future of careers work? Because learning to manage life roles is as complex and demanding as any aspect of contemporary curriculum. And if we are really going to do something worthwhile with Connexions and similar programmes, we will need strong curriculum ideas.

When ‘careers education’ was first introduced, it seemed a more cost-effective way to do some of the work. Part of that thinking was that careers-ed was an adjunct to guidance - backing it with coverage of preparatory ground.

Traces of that thinking are still around. But I doubt that it’s sustainable. In the first place working life - its pressures, opportunities and what people can do about it - has changed. There is a much bigger challenge here than anything envisaged when careers education was first introduced.
Furthermore, we have learned how curriculum has its own special dynamic. A wide repertoire of learning processes has been developed. Part of it is based on an understanding of progression - how people move from a starting point to where they can turn learning into sustainable action. Some of this has been built into careers education.

But we can go much further. There are two critical issues for careers work: learning-to-learn and transfer-of-learning. We don’t know as much as we need to know about how to enable the former; and we have made little progress in achieving the conditions for the latter. Yet, in our field, the only significant payoff is not in how well people do in their assessments, it is in how relevant and usable the learning proves to be in their lives.

There is an important research agenda here. And none of its questions are exclusive to careers - many are critical to ‘mainstream’ curriculum. It is part of a growing world-wide questioning of curriculum - and of the terms in which we need it to work.

Policy is long on rhetoric, but short on such understanding. Standards and relevance are not the same thing! We won’t be able to deliver anything worth having – however-well people do in assessment – unless they also use and adapt their learning in their lives. Career curriculum could be a trailblazer on that issue.

Back to the top

Further links: