Benchmark 7

Encounters with further and higher education

All pupils should understand the full range of learning opportunities that are available to them. This includes both academic and vocational routes and learning in schools, colleges, universities and in the workplace.

  • By the age of 16, every pupil should have had a meaningful encounter* with providers of the full range of learning opportunities, including sixth forms, colleges, universities and apprenticeship providers. This should include the opportunity to meet both staff and pupils.
  • By the age of 18, all pupils who are considering applying for university should have had at least two visits to universities to meet staff and pupils.

* A ‘meaningful’ encounter is one in which the student has an opportunity to explore what it’s like to learn in that environment.

Image: Good career guidance

Students visiting the Big Bang Fair

Stories from the North East

Different routes to the same destination

Schools within the pilot have fully embraced the concept of ‘meaningful encounters’ of higher and further education, ensuring that students are made aware of the full range of learning opportunities including sixth forms, colleges, universities, apprenticeship and training providers. With large scale reforms to technical education on the horizon, including the introduction of T levels from 2020, making sure young people understand the full range of options available to them has never been more important. 

By making use of all the organisations who can provide support through established outreach and awareness programmes, you can ensure that professional and technical education routes are given parity with traditional academic routes within the school. Providing impartial advice on all the routes a student could take, is crucial. Part of this is ensuring every student has the opportunity to explore what it is like to learn at the full range of providers.



Parents, carers and students hear about future study and employment options at Harton Academy

Harton Academy organised an evening event exploring future education options. Local universities provided information on learning styles and financing options, and a range of professionals talked about their career pathways. The professionals had taken many different routes and qualifications to get to their position including apprenticeships, BTECs and HNDs. Students could have individual meetings with any of the speakers, and parents and carers also attended the event. The evening had a strong impact on parents and carers with one describing it as “a valuable and insightful event”.

To ensure students understood the breadth of pathways available to them Sunderland College focused on creating a Routes into STEM event, which brought together employers, higher education providers and professionals to talk about careers and the routes into it. By inviting high-profile speakers, they increased attendance at the event. 

Understanding where parents and carers get their information from and challenging preconceptions of further and higher education, although a task, is imperative if you are going to reduce the potential for students receiving conflicting messages about pathways into employment. Some schools in the pilot invited parents and carers to careers events and put time into making sure they had access to up-to-date careers information throughout the school year.

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Our top tips

  • Leanne Johnston, Career Leader at The King Edward VI School, Northumberland
    “Map out your destinations from previous years and look for gaps and trends. Are students clustering around particular universities/colleges? Did students pursue ‘fallback’ routes due to a lack of information about opportunities? Use this data to inform planning of opportunities and potential interventions for the next cycle.”
  • Ryan Gibson, National Facilitator for the Career Benchmarks Pilot at North East LEP
    “It can sometimes be difficult to convince senior leadership to provide broad and balanced information about post-16 options when a school is invested in recruiting students for their own sixth form but you should focus on the student, and what is best for them. They are entitled to all the information about how they can succeed. A school sixth form should be promoted alongside other routes.”
  • Bishop Auckland College Careers Leader, Kevin Burns
    “Look at what your local college does in local schools. Staff from our college offer sessions to Year 8 pupils, linking careers and labour market information to growth sectors in the local area, often taking in employers drawn from the college’s own contacts. We also work with Year 11 pupils and sixth form students applying to college, raising the profile of careers linked to opportunities in our specific region.”
  • Simon Tait, Career Leader at Greenfield Community College “Our work with Bishop Aukland is an example of how partnership can have an impact on a range of Benchmarks across several institutions through one co-ordinated and collaborative activity.”
  • Emma McDermott, Career Leader at Castle View Enterprise Academy
    “Collect bulk copies of local FE college and sixth form prospectuses and training provider guides to use in lessons; the students love to see the real thing.”

Map out your destinations from previous years and look for gaps and trends...Use this data to inform planning of opportunities and potential interventions for the next cycle.

Leanne Johnston, King Edward VI School