The Gatsby Benchmarks – A Summary by Complete Careers


The Gatsby Benchmarks are referred to everywhere in the careers world, but what are they, where have they come from and what do they mean?  In our blog we will be answering these questions and providing a comprehensive summary of the benchmarks for you.

Gatsby Benchmarks – What are They?

The Gatsby Benchmarks are extremely topical at present having been explicitly referenced throughout the DfE’s Careers Strategy (December 2017) and the new Statuary Guidance for careers (January 2018). They have actually been around since 2013, here we provide a summary of the benchmarks exploring what they are, how they affect schools and are they any good!

The Gatsby Benchmarks originated in a research report (Good Career Guidance) from the Gatsby Foundation in 2013.  The report was commissioned by Lord Sainsbury and Sir John Holman was appointed to lead a research team to focus on international evidence for ‘what works’ in career development.  The research provides a comprehensive study of career development exploring key elements of good career development, the cost per school for good career development and the economic benefit of career development to the economy.  Price Waterhouse Cooper were commissioned to provide the latter and summarised that the cost of every NEET individual to the government is the same amount required to provide the benchmarks to 280 pupils. The overall annual cost to the government for implementing a good careers guidance strategy is £207 million in the first year and £173 million per year thereafter.  The study explored international evidence from The Netherlands, Germany, Hong Kong, Ontario- Canada, Finland and Ireland.

The report found 8 benchmarks of best practice, which are now more commonly known as ‘The Gatsby Benchmarks.’  They are:

  1. A stable careers programme
  2. Learning from career and labour market information
  3. Addressing the needs of each pupil
  4. Linking curriculum learning to careers
  5. Encounters with employers and employees
  6. Experiences of workplaces
  7. Encounters with further and higher education
  8. Personal guidance

Each of the benchmarks have sub criteria for how they can be achieved.  Along with the 8 benchmarks the report makes 10 recommendations for implementing the benchmarks.  The Department for Education initially commissioned the Careers and Enterprise Company to support schools to implement benchmark 5 – Encounters with Employers and Employees.  In addition to this the Careers and Enterprise Company have set up a local support network in 38 of the 39 national Local Enterprise Partnerships in the form of Enterprise Coordinators and Enterprise Advisers.  The Careers and Enterprise Company has also introduced a free tool Compass for schools to self-assess themselves against the benchmarks.  In its 2017 ‘State of the Nation’ report the Careers and Enterprise Company reported that on average schools meet 1.87 of the 8 benchmarks.  Given the Department for Education in its Careers Strategy and Statutory guidance states that schools should achieve all 8 benchmarks by 2020, there is clearly a way to go!   Most schools will meet all of the benchmarks partially, but will fall down on the coverage of each benchmark.  For example, benchmark 5 states that all learners should have at least 1 encounter per year with employers from age 12-18.  Benchmark 8 requires all learners to receive at least 1 Personal Guidance appointment from a trained careers adviser by the end of year 11 and a further session before the end of year 13.  There is currently an extended pilot supporting schools to meet all 8 benchmarks taking place in the North East.

Although the Gatsby Benchmarks are clearly valued by the Department for Education and represent good careers guidance, many in the careers profession consider them to have flaws.  Below are some of the most common flaws.

  • They do not have any reference to learning outcomes for what learners are expected to achieve. There is no reference to the Career Development Institute’s 11-19 framework.
  • Overall the attention to monitoring, reviewing, evaluating and improving careers programmes is quite weak.
  • There is no requirement for external validation/assessment of achievement of the benchmarks.

In the 2017 the State of the Nation report (CEC.) there is a reference to the Quality in Careers Standard which indicates that schools that have completed the Compass Tool on average meet 2.63 of the benchmarks.  At present there is considerable work being done between the Gatsby Foundation and the Quality in Careers Standard to better align their criteria.  The Department for Education in its strategy and statutory guidance strongly recommends that schools use the Quality in Careers Standard to externally validate their progress towards the 8 Gatsby Benchmarks.

Career Mark, as a Licensed Awarding Body of the Quality in Careers Standard has undertaken a comprehensive mapping exercise to the Gatsby Benchmarks.  At present our criteria meets most of the Gatsby Benchmarks and will be revised in the summer of 2018 when we intend to launch Career Mark 7 meeting all the Gatsby criteria.

We hope you found this summary useful and you can download a printable pdf version of this blog here.


2013 – Gatsby Foundation - Good Careers Guidance

2017 – Careers and Enterprise Company – State of the National Report

2017 – DfE – Making the Most of Everyone's Skills and Talents

2018 – DfE Careers Guidance and Access for Training and Education Providers

Quality in Careers Standard

Career Mark