School careers leaders: who are they?

Careers leaders are now compulsory in schools and colleges - but which employees have taken on these new roles?

Stephen Exley

Every school must have a career leader - but who are they?

In 2017, the government’s careers strategy set a goal that every school and college should have a named careers leader in place by September 2018.

But who are these people? A new report published today by the Careers & Enterprise Company and the Gatsby Foundation is based on a survey of 750 careers leaders across the country and lifts the lid on the people who have taken on this emerging role in the education profession – two-thirds of whom were appointed in the last two academic years.

Read more: 'Send teachers on work experience to boost careers advice'

More news: 'Too often, careers advice is treated like a grubby little secret'

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What are careers leaders’ day jobs?

A third (33 per cent) are subject teachers, 22 per cent are work experience coordinators and 16 per cent careers advisers.

Careers leaders can also be found as departmental or faculty heads, or heads in pastoral roles. A small minority are Sendcos, librarians and business managers, while 36 per cent said they held other roles that weren’t listed in the survey (including exams officer, inclusion coordinator and pastoral support officer).

While 32 per cent were in post prior to the careers strategy, the majority (68 per cent) had been appointed since then.

How senior are careers leaders?

The most common model (30 per cent of cases) is a single careers leader at middle-leadership level, followed by a single leader at senior level (20 per cent). In 13 per cent of schools, careers leadership is distributed across senior and middle leaders – and a minority of schools had a careers leader who worked in at least one other school. 

In other cases, 22 per cent were at coordinator level and 6 per cent at administrator level.

How important are careers leaders?

In 27 per cent of cases, the careers leader is a member of the senior leadership team (SLT). Of the rest, 28 per cent report to the SLT at least once every half term, 27 per cent at least termly and 13 per cent once a year.

However, they tended to have less contact with governors. More than a third (36 per cent) of careers leaders are engaging with governors about careers at least once a term, but 44 per cent only do so once a year – and a fifth of schools are not yet involving governors regularly.

How much do careers leaders get paid?

Those at senior leadership level were most commonly paid in the £50,000+ category, middle leaders in the £40,000-£50,000 range and coordinators and administrators in the £20,000-£30,000 category. For comparison, the 2017 school workforce survey showed that leaders were typically paid £63,700 and class teachers in maintained secondary schools £38,000.

What impact are careers leaders having?

Perhaps not surprisingly, careers leaders are largely positive about the state of information, advice and guidance in schools and colleges. Almost nine in 10 (88 per cent) say their role is having a positive impact on young peoples’ outcomes, with three-quarters saying they think careers provision has improved since the careers strategy was published, and 81 per cent saying they feel positive about the future of careers provision.

Claudia Harris, chief executive of the Careers & Enterprise Company, said: “With major reform to school structures, grades and accountability over the last few years, schools could be forgiven for feeling cynical about yet more policy change.

“So the significance of schools being so overwhelmingly positive about the careers strategy shouldn’t be underestimated. The strategy represents a different way of doing careers and a departure from the past, but it’s one that schools are embracing.”

“Careers leaders are emerging as a motivated, positive and incredibly important cohort within schools and colleges. We’re proud to have been supporting them on this journey and look forward to continuing that work.”

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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