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Gatsby - a novel idea

Good career guidance for all has never been more important as no loving parent wants their child to be kept in the dark about the opportunities available to them when they leave school. Despite tinkering, by every hue of government, over the last 30 years a golden age of clear advice has never been reached, so the decision of David Sainsbury’s Gatsby Charitable Foundation to try and rewrite the script must be warmly welcomed. 

Getting across the message about the increasingly rapid changes in technology and the requirements of business, which can only be met by specific education and training, appears to have been tackled more efficiently in some countries than others and at the moment the UK is lagging well behind the front-runners.

A mission to try and establish why this is and what could be done to improve the existing state of play was handed to Sir John Holman (an ex-headmaster and professor of chemistry as well as a leading expert on scientific education). He investigated the practices of other countries including, Germany, Finland, and Ireland, all of whom are further down the line in this field, as well as the current situation in both state and independent schools.

In the report he comes to the following conclusions, which he has divided into three areas:

  • Benchmarks – eight best practice rules for schools to aim at
  • Recommendations – ten ways to help them reach the benchmarks
  • Benefits – how these can help both students and the educational system

You can find all the details on a clear, comprehensible website - but a slightly cheeky attempt to boil down the essence could read:

  • Easily understood information should be available, in schools and on their websites, to every student, parent, governor and employer.
  • Each school and college should have an on the spot careers advisor, whose door is always open, as well as access to external help.
  • Representatives from the business world should visit schools to bridge the communication gap and first-hand experience of the workplace should be much more actively promoted.
  • Information on academic and vocational routes should be linked to the curriculum, throughout senior schools.

The Gatsby quotation

“there is no single magic bullet in career guidance. It is about doing a number of things…consistently well”

points to a remedy that could lead to pupils achieving better outcomes in the world of work and avoiding the possibility of becoming a NEET (not in education, employment or training). In addition, the financial benefit to the country of more motivated young people in the workforce will help pay for the cost of implementation.

QED – it’s a no brainer, the sooner this is rolled out, the better!


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