Data Insight: Effectiveness of careers guidance in supporting participation in Post Compulsory Education and Training (PCET)

This Data Insight explores the influence careers guidance can have on transitions to Post Compulsory Education and Training (PCET) in Wales. The analysis examines rates of transition to PCET in Wales, whether the receipt of careers guidance during key stage 4 supports transition to PCET and, if so, whether it benefits some groups of pupils more than others.

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The transition from learning to work is becoming increasingly complex and the provision of careers guidance to those in school is felt to play a critical role, particularly among those pupils from poorer backgrounds. Research has demonstrated that children’s aspirations and careers choices are influenced by their experiences at home and school, exposure to employment, and encouragement from significant adults. Some research has suggested that parents of lower socio-economic status have lower aspirations for their children and are generally less informed about particular career routes. Careers guidance is therefore felt to be particularly important among those from families who have a history of unemployment or low-skilled employment. Careers guidance can help to fill these gaps in social capital by increasing occupational knowledge, self-esteem and raising aspirations.

So can the provision of careers guidance within schools be demonstrated to influence the transitions subsequently made by pupils following their completion of compulsory education? Within Wales, Careers Wales is responsible for providing an independent and impartial careers information, advice and guidance service. Under its new Brighter Futures five-year delivery strategy, Careers Wales aims to offer a personalised service, targeting support at those most likely to face barriers to moving into a sustained positive transition from statutory education. An important aspect of Careers Wales’ work is to support pupils so that they do not become NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training).

What we did 

For the purpose of our analysis, we linked the Welsh National Data Collection Pupil Level Annual School Census (NDC PLASC), the Post-16 Pupil Level Annual School Census (Post 16 PLASC), and the Lifelong Learner Wales Record (LLWR). Linking these administrative records allowed us to identify those pupils who moved into PCET following the end of key stage 4. These transitions cover those who either remain within a Sixth Form (captured by Post 16 PLASC) or those who moved to the further education (FE) sector – including those registered for work-based learning (captured by LLWR). Data relating to the interactions that Careers Wales has with pupils is available from 2015/16 onwards. To examine the effect of careers guidance received during key stage 4 (Years 10 and 11), our analysis therefore examines the transitions to PCET made by two cohorts of pupils: those who were in Year 11 during 2016/17 and 2017/18. Our estimates reveal that approximately 92% of pupils progress to PCET. This figure is very similar to results from the annual survey of leavers undertaken by Careers Wales for the same two cohorts (93%).

Careers Wales interaction data is very detailed. Pupils can be recorded as having had multiple interactions of different kinds. Even details of texts or email correspondence with clients is recorded. The primary distinction made within the data are those interactions that involve the provision of careers information, advice and guidance. These three categories can be broadly regarded as representing increasing levels of support. Whilst careers information and advice can involve things like signposting to information about learning and work opportunities, a careers guidance interview is more in-depth and can only be undertaken by a professionally qualified careers guidance advisor. As opposed to more universal interventions such as group sessions, the one-to-one guidance interview represents the main targeted intervention. This enables advisers to identify the interests, skills and aptitudes of the client and explore how individuals might overcome any barriers that they face. We explore how rates of transition to PCET vary according to whether pupils received a careers guidance interview during Year 10 or Year 11.

Why it matters

The application of Counterfactual Impact Evaluation Techniques allows us to make an assessment of impact of careers guidance increasing engagement with PCET and reducing the likelihood of being NET. Due to the absence of data on employment outcomes, we are not able to shed light on the impact of careers guidance interviews on the risk of pupils becoming NEET. Nonetheless, increasing engagement with PCET is a key aim of the Welsh Government,6 and so our evidence which suggests that the outcomes for young people can be enhanced by careers guidance interventions remains important. The greater impact that these interventions appear to have among the most disadvantaged groups of pupils also confirms the findings of previous research that emphasises the particular importance of careers guidance among those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

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