Education news

How are Working Options programmes helping colleges to deliver the Gatsby Benchmarks?

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In this blog we explain the Gatsby Benchmarks, how they have influenced Government strategy for careers guidance and how Working Options programmes are helping sixth form colleges to deliver against the benchmarks.

What are the Gatsby Benchmarks?

A report published earlier this year set out what career guidance in England’s schools and colleges should look like going forward. The  Gatsby benchmarks – there are eight in total – have a key role to play in:

  • Raising young people’s aspirations and promoting access to all career pathways.
  • Enabling all young people to develop the skills and outlook they need to achieve career well-being, including adaptability and resilience
  • Underpinning the DfE’s guidance to schools and colleges on how to meet their statutory responsibilities for careers guidance. By 2020, all colleges will be expected to meet these as part of their careers guidance programme.

How is Working Options helping sixth form colleges to deliver the Gatsby benchmarks?

The Gatsby Benchmarks already closely reflect what Working Options is doing through our careers education programme in sixth form colleges. Below we show how we’re delivering on each.

Gatsby Benchmark How Working Options supports the benchmark
1. Schools and colleges should offer a stable, structured careers programme This is for colleges to develop but we can offer advice.
2. Students and parents to learn from careers and labour market information We offer some signposting through our online careers hub for young people
3. Careers programmes should address the needs of each student Our Motivation and Information sessions provide a range of volunteer speakers (different levels of seniority and function) catering for a wide audience and always challenging stereotypical thinking.
4. Curriculum should make links with  careers Our volunteer speakers share their career journeys to help students see how their learning is relevant and how it will help them in the workplace.
5. Multiple ‘valid’ encounters for students with employers and employees Our Motivation and Information sessions provide a two-hour encounter with a range of volunteer speakers where the student learns about what work is like and what it takes to become successful in the workplace. Sessions include networking time.
6. First hand student experiences of workplaces We don’t currently offer this, but it’s in development.
7. Encounters with range of further and higher education providers to understand options Outside our area of expertise. We do provide some information on education options after sixth form via our online careers information hub.
8. Personal guidance interview opportunities for students Outside our area of expertise.

Get in touch

Colleges have a big task on their hands to get careers education right and meet the standards expected. The more help they can get from employers to succeed the better. If you’re an employer and building relationships with your local colleges has been on your to do list for a while or you’re a college that wants to engage more with business get in touch with us.

The Apprenticeships Levy: One Year On

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Here at Working Options we’re convinced of the benefits of Apprenticeships for both students and employers.

Recent analysis of data from the Education and Skills Funding Agency commissioned by the Open University (OU) – The Apprenticeship Levy: One Year On – shows that more than £1.28 billion of the funding that has been paid into the Apprenticeship levy by companies is sitting in National Apprenticeship Service accounts with only £108 million withdrawn to date. Worryingly, the funds sitting in these accounts expire after 24 months. Companies are clearly failing to maximise the opportunities of the levy and the OU urges employers to pick up the pace before everyone loses out.

Now, a year is not a long time, and there have undoubtedly been barriers to companies getting their schemes up and running. The OU is calling for a more agile approach and the introduction of ‘modular apprenticeships’. These would allow employers to tailor training by adding additional learning modules to ‘core’ apprenticeships; an approach supported by one in four employers (24%), and that still works towards the UK government’s target of developing three million new apprentices by 2020.

We already help ABP UK to promote their Apprenticeship vacancies to the students in the colleges we work with. If you’d like to join them to promote your Apprenticeships, get in touch.

It’s National Apprenticeship Week

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National Apprenticeship Week takes place this week (5-9 March). During the week, employers and apprentices from across England will come together to celebrate the success of apprenticeships whilst encouraging even more people to choose apprenticeships as a pathway to a great career.

In our careers hub you can find information about how to find an apprenticeship and live apprenticeship vacancies from the ABP UK. 


More about National Apprenticeship Week 2018


New research shows link between academic achievement and employer engagement

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Findings of a new research report Making the Grade: Does involvement in activities impact the achievement of young people? published by charity Education and Employers confirms that employer engagement and work experience are key to achieving top grades.


The report explores the findings from a new survey which asked teachers specifically what happens to children and young people in terms of their academic achievement after taking part in activities with local employers, for example work experience, careers sessions or enterprise activities. Many teachers are well placed to offer an informed professional opinion on whether employer engagement impacts on pupil achievement , why and how it might do so, when and where it is optimally designed for maximum impact and who (among pupils) is best placed to benefit. The report addresses three specific themes:


1.  Do employer engagement activities have an impact on the academic achievement of pupils?

2.  Which activities have the greatest impacts, and on which type of pupil?

3.  Why, according to teachers, do these activities have an impact?


Making the Grade builds on previous research published earlier this year from Education and Employers and LifeSkills.


Key findings


  • 9 out of 10 secondary school teachers (93%) say that work experience and employer related activities can help students to do better in exams.
  • Teachers also said that one in five pupils (20%) in a typical year group today have positively benefitted from these activities in school.
  • Successful work experience placements are believed to have the greatest impact on improving academic attainment, with over a quarter of teachers ranking it as their first choice. This is followed closely by employer-led sessions such as career events with employee volunteers.
  • While the sentiment was shared across the state and independent sector, the majority of teachers believed that employer engagement in the most disadvantaged schools had the highest impact.
  • Over half of teachers felt academic achievement can be improved by helping students understand the relevance of education to employment, as well as exposing students to new role models through employer engagement.




Does the education system hinder social mobility?

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We are passionate about equalising the opportunities available to state educated students and that is why we are here – to give students more confidence to go after the opportunities available for them. Here are some articles that show the potential impact of the education system on social mobility.

Assesment in schools:
Fit for purpose? A Commentary by the Teaching and Learning Research Programme

There is strong evidence to suggest that testing students exclusively by exams is a very poor way of judging achievements and fostering the skills pupils need later on in life. Many of the reports findings endorse the fact that if there is a system that is entirely focused upon exams, you inevitably get teachers teaching to the test. This can be the case when a teacher’s pay and a school’s future hinges upon exam results.

Universities should lower entry grades for poorest
Leading universities should admit teenagers from poorly -performing state schools with lower A Level-grades then privately-educated pupils to boost “sluggish” levels of social mobility, according to a Government backed report.

Click here to read a Government report on this issue:

Inequality between disadvantaged and wealthier children still exists

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Here at Working Options our aim is to inspire college students from all backgrounds to feel motivated about their future and give them some great advice on how to be competitive in the world of work to secure the career they want. It seems our work is as important as ever, especially in the light of two recent reports and what they tell us.

A Unicef report has highlighted that the UK has one of the biggest gaps between high income and low income families and this is reflected in children’s performance in reading, maths and science. Whilst another report has found that graduates from wealthier backgrounds appear to be paid more than other graduates who have studied at the same universities with the same qualifications.

This highlights the importance of ensuring we even the playing field for students from less privileged backgrounds and give them access to advice and information on how to be successful following education. What more do you think could be done to help?