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Ofsted inspection of careers advice in schools

As a parent/carer, you need to know how good the careers advice is in your child’s school. The school’s website is a good place to start. You can check if the school holds a quality award for its careers work. About one-third of secondary schools do (See Note 1). You can also look at the latest destinations data for pupils at the end of Key Stage 4 in the DfE’s performance table for your school (

The school’s most recent Ofsted inspection report may provide further information.

How Ofsted inspects careers advice and support

Since September 2015, the position of careers in the Ofsted inspection framework has been strengthened in section 5 inspections (See Note 2).

Inspectors judge the effectiveness of leadership and management by examining the impact of the curriculum including careers advice and support on pupils’ outcomes.

Schools, for example, can only be judged outstanding for ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ if:

  • In secondary schools, high quality, impartial careers guidance helps pupils to make informed choices about which courses suit their academic needs and aspirations. They are prepared for the next stage of their education, employment, self-employment or training.
  • Pupils understand how their education equips them with the behaviours and attitudes necessary for success in their next stage of education, training or employment and for their adult life. (p.52-3)

They can only be judged outstanding for ‘pupils’ outcomes’ if:

  • Pupils are exceptionally well prepared for the next stage of their education, training or employment and have attained relevant qualifications. Compared with the national average for all pupils, higher proportions of pupils and of disadvantaged pupils, progress on to a range of higher and further education establishments, apprenticeships, employment or training. These destinations strongly support their career plans. (p.57-8)

Schools offering 16-19 study programmes can only be judged outstanding if:

  • Leaders plan, manage and evaluate study programmes so that learners undertake highly individualised and challenging learning that builds on their prior attainment, meets all the requirements of 16 to 19 provision and prepares them very well for future employment.
  • High quality impartial careers guidance ensures that learners follow study programmes that build on their prior attainment and enable them to develop clear, ambitious and realistic plans for their future. Learners understand the options available and are informed about local and national skills needs.
  • Learners are confident and conduct themselves well. They are punctual. They have excellent personal, social and employability skills and undertake high quality non-qualification activities and work experience that matches their needs. Attendance rates are high.Almost all learners progress swiftly to higher levels during their study programme.
  • Almost all learners complete their study programmes, achieve qualifications relevant to their career aims and move on to sustained education, employment, training or an apprenticeship. (p. 66)

Going in the right direction?

From time to time, Ofsted carries out thematic surveys of careers work in a sample of schools. The selected schools get detailed feedback on the quality of their provision while all schools can benchmark their own provision against the findings in the report. Going in the Right Direction? (2013), found that:

  • provision was effective in only one in five schools
  • only about a quarter made use of the destinations data for their students to inform their strategy and provision
  • few schools had bought in adequate services from external providers
  • half were using their own staff who were untrained and not up-to-date
  • schools were not engaging employers or promoting vocational training and apprenticeships well enough (two-thirds had cut down KS4 work experience) the aspirations for many vulnerable students were too low
  • the promotion of post-16 options available from other providers was particularly weak in many 11 to 18 schools. (see Note 3)

What you can do

You can express your views to Ofsted on your child’s school at any time by completing Parent View (, an online questionnaire. Ofsted uses the information you provide as part of its risk assessment of the school. During an inspection, you may also get a chance to meet inspectors.

The most useful thing you can do is to not wait for an inspection but to get in touch with your child’s school directly if you need information or advice about your child’s career. Your child’s form teacher will always be willing to answer questions about your child’s progress.

You can raise general concerns about the school’s careers provision through the Parents Council or PTA.

All schools have a member of staff who leads on careers and will be pleased to answer your questions. This is also the person to contact if you are able to help the school develop its careers programme and to increase the opportunities for all pupils to find out more about the world of work.


All quality awards for careers work in schools in England are in the process of being validated by the Quality in Careers Consortium. See

Ofsted inspects schools and colleges in England on behalf of the government. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own education inspectorates. Inspectors carry out full (section 5) inspections of schools that are not yet good or outstanding. Schools that were judged good at their most recent inspection receive a short (section 8) inspection every three years. You can view the new inspection documents at

Going in the right direction? (Ofsted, 2013)

© Anthony Barnes September 2015