The eight benchmarks outlined by the Gatsby Foundation are a framework for schools to offer students the best possible careers advice and help them to create pathways for life after education. We’ve focused on a few benchmarks and will be exploring them in more detail in a series of blogs, starting with benchmark one – a stable careers plan.

A careers programme should be implemented in schools to ensure students receive effective careers guidance. It provides a foundation for the other seven benchmarks and supports activities like regular careers meetings, employer encounters and work experience. For this first blog we’re delighted to have the insight of Donna Mason, careers leader at Roding Valley High School in Essex, who shared her view on their careers plan and what makes it so effective for students.

Why is this important?

A stable careers plan ensures students are prepared for the responsibilities of later life and are well-informed before making career choices. Although students may finish school with high grades, it’s just as important to develop their careers knowledge to shape their futures. As Donna has found at Roding Valley, “it’s important that it is a planned programme and one that is revised annually so that it supports students at key transition times”. This will also help students with challenging labour market conditions, as the Gatsby Foundation state that young people are three times more likely than adults to be unemployed.

How does this work?


A way to guarantee the careers programme reaches everyone is to share it clearly on the school website, outlining the programme for each school year so that parents, carers and students can become familiar with it. Activities can also be posted on school social media, so it reaches a wider audience and links in with employers who could support your programme, plus parents can see what students are doing and can provide support.


It’s essential for the programme to be embedded into the school structure and careers activities should be prioritised just like other curriculum subjects. When addressing priorities at her school, Donna started to “plan activities in advance but also engage with programmes that arise throughout the year that would be of benefit to students”. Grades and careers knowledge are equally important in supporting students’ progression, so ensuring there is always time reserved for these activities is critical. 


Reviewing the careers programme at the end of the year will help you to ensure it’s effective in helping students establish career goals and pathways. One way to measure its success is to give students surveys after each careers activity to see how helpful they found it and how it has contributed to their career planning. Surveys throughout the years can also review their career goals which can be checked against their destinations after Year 13, indicating whether students are accessing their desired pathways, and if not, why not. This information will help you to improve the programme for the following year so that it can support students effectively. 

In summary, promoting, prioritising and evaluating the careers programme is key to building a stable programme that gives the best possible support to students in making career decisions. Roding Valley has developed a successful programme engaging multiple stakeholders, and key to this has been Donna’s holistic approach, “planning a programme that builds from Year 7 through to Year 13 gives students the time to learn the essential skills required to have a real understanding about careers.”

In our next blog we will be exploring two more of the Gatsby benchmarks sharing more tips on how to deliver careers guidance that is tailored to students' individual needs and aspirations.