PublicationsSystematic reviewsCEG ks3-4CEG ks3-4 - summary
A systematic review of recent research (1988 - 2003) into the impact of careers education and guidance on transitions from Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4. Summary

Background

'Transition' in the United Kingdom (UK) is characterised by a series of distinct phases within an educational context which mark the boundaries between the end of one stage of education and the beginning of the next (Looker and Dwyer, 1998). Successful transition through the education system into further education (FE), training and work is central to current government policies, designed to promote social inclusion as well as economic prosperity through competition and the development of labour market skills. However, by the end of 2000, the UK appeared to be falling behind its European neighbours. One in four 16- to 18-year-olds was not in education and training, which was below national averages reported by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Campbell et al. (2002). This study found that, overall, the proportion of the workforce holding level 2 (equivalent of General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) grades A-C) or level 3 (equivalent of A levels) qualifications in the UK is currently well below those in France and Germany. In England, the Government set targets to increase the percentage of pupils gaining five or more GCSEs at Grades A* to C (or equivalent) from 50% in 2000 to 54% by 2004. The proportion of 19-year-olds achieving a level 3 qualification is expected to increase from 51% in 2000 to 55% in 2004 (Department for Skills and Education (DfES), 2001b). Access to high quality information, advice and guidance is integral to fulfilling these targets (DfES, 2003).

The Transitions Review Group aims to contribute to the development of this evidence base by undertaking a systematic review of existing research evidence concerned with the distinct 'actions' and 'influences' that impact on transitions across Key Stages 3 to 4, including careers education and guidance, leading up to the point when choices and decisions are imminent.

Aims and review questions

The overall aim of the review is to identify the available research evidence in a systematic and objective way in order to ascertain the role and impact of careers education and guidance (CEG) on young people's transitions from Key Stage (KS) 3 (ages 11 to 13) to KS 4 (ages 13 to 16).

The aims of the study were as follows:

  • To investigate the effects of CEG during KS 3 (ages 11 to 13) on the transitions made by young people from KS 3 to 4 (age 13) and on young people's learning and development during KS 4 (ages 13 to 16)
  • To assess the influence of 'internal' and 'external' factors on the outcomes of transitions, such as young people's motivation and capabilities, parental involvement, socioeconomic constraints, demography, family relationships, support services and environmental factors
  • To relate the outcomes to policy developments in careers education and guidance since 1995 in England in order to assess their impact on practice within and outside schools
  • To make recommendations based on the findings, designed to inform future policy and practice, and to ensure that decisions are evidence-based.

Our research question is set within the context of the reform to secondary education as cited in 14-19:Opportunity and Excellence (DfES, 2003):

What is the impact of CEG policies and practice during KS 3 (ages 11 to 13) on young people's transitions from KS 3 to KS 4 (at age 13) and on their learning and personal development during KS 4 (ages 13 to 16)?

The following sub-questions are also considered:

How does careers education and guidance affect the transition process and/or learning and motivation?
What internal and external factors modify the effects of careers education and guidance?

Methods

The review process is highly systematic and comprises a number of distinct phases: searching, screening, keywording and data extraction.

Searching: The review group systematically conducted a comprehensive search for reports of relevant empirical research. The search included studies that focused on CEG delivered at KS 3 and measured the relevant outcomes of the intervention at KS 4. The search encompassed studies written in English and published between 1988 and 2003, in order to capture the influence of key changes in the UK secondary school curriculum and careers services. The search excluded studies that focused solely on the effectiveness of 'citizenship' and those that were not written in the English language.

Screening: All identified studies were screened by title and abstract according to set inclusion and exclusion criteria derived from the review question. If at this stage the studies appeared to meet the inclusion criteria, or where a decision could not be made by only screening title and abstract, the full text for the studies was obtained and further screening took place.

Keywording: Studies meeting the inclusion criteria were coded, using the EPPI-Centre core keywords. In addition, the review group developed review-specific keywords (Appendix 2.4.1 in the technical report) that were also applied to each study.

Keyworded studies were used to produce a systematic map designed to describe the nature of the research that has investigated CEG at KS 3. All studies in the systematic map were then data-extracted for inclusion in the synthesis and in-depth review.

Data-extraction involved the application by the review group of the EPPI-Centre standardised data extraction guidelines to all studies. These guidelines provided the basis for the Review Group's assessment of the quality of the design and findings of the studies, articulated as 'weight of evidence'. The results of the data-extraction process were then synthesised according to the framework underpinning the review strategy.

Rigorous quality monitoring procedures were applied throughout the review process to ensure that all judgements were unbiased. All decisions made were independently verified by two members of the Review Group and moderated by staff from the EPPI-Centre. In the main, differences of opinion were resolved through discussion and consensus was reached without difficulty.

Results

The initial search yielded 6,766 studies. Screening by title and abstract reduced the number of potential reports for inclusion in the systematic map to 539 (338 from electronic databases and a further 201 from handsearches). The subsequent two-stage screening process, based on full texts, only identified 10 studies that met all the set inclusion criteria.

Seven of the studies were carried out in the UK and three studies were carried out in the US (Luzzo and Pierce, 1996; Peterson et al., 1999; Turner and Lapan, 2002). The majority of the included studies were carried out in the 1990s (n=8) and therefore pre-date the rapid and far-reaching changes, such as the focusing agenda (UK) and the introduction of Connexions (England) in 2000 (see Section 1.3 of the technical report). Of the two more recent studies included, one was carried out in the US (Turner and Lapan, 2002) and the other in the UK (Morris et al., 2001).

The quality of the studies included in the in-depth review varied. Only two studies were judged to provide a high weight of evidence (Edwards et al., 1999; Howieson and Semple, 1996), with the majority (n=7), providing a medium weight of evidence (Luzzo and Pierce, 1996; Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), 1995; Office of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in Wales (OHMCISW), 1997; Morris et al., 1998, 2001; Peterson et al., 1999; Turner and Lapan, 2002). In the review group's judgement, only one study included provided a low weight of evidence (Ofsted, 1998).

Synthesis

The synthesis of the evidence is provided below. It is divided into a number of emerging themes, which correspond to the review question and sub-questions:

What is the impact of general CEG provision on the transition between KS 3 and KS 4 and on learning and development during KS 4?

Six UK studies focused on the quality of general provision of CEG in schools. Only one study was judged as providing a high weight of evidence (Howieson and Semple, 1996). Four were judged to provide a medium weight of evidence (Morris et al., 1998, 2001; Ofsted, 1995; OHMCISW, 1997), and one was judged as providing a low weight of evidence (Ofsted, 1998). The majority of these studies were government-funded and had broad aims, mainly relating to the quality of teaching and learning in CEG in secondary schools. One study focused on student perceptions of guidance in Scottish schools (Howieson and Semple, 1996) and three aimed to evaluate the impact of government initiatives (Morris et al., 1998, 2001; Ofsted, 1998).

Overall, the evidence suggests that provision of CEG varies from school to school, depending on a range of factors that can be seen as 'indicators' of quality, including: school policy and management; content and organisation of CEG programmes; qualifications of teaching staff designated to deliver CEG; standards of students' work; and library resources. The research implies that these factors affect the transition of young people. Where provision is good, the impact on young people in transition appears to be positive.

  • The evidence from Ofsted (1995) suggests that students' careers-related learning is dependent on, among other things, the quality of provision of CEG in schools. The standards of students' work were found to be higher where schools had a good written policy on CEG covering each of the Key Stages, linked to the school development plan, and a planned programme of CEG provided by designated staff who had received proper training and support.
  • Both Ofsted studies also provide evidence that CEG is beneficial to students in helping to develop knowledge and skills to enable them to make educational and career choices. Careers guidance for students at the end of KS 3, KS 4 and the sixth form was judged to be generally 'sound'. Between Year 10 and Year 11, most students demonstrated a significant growth in their knowledge and understanding of the post-16 choices and they had acquired many skills which would be useful in making decisions and implementing them (Ofsted, 1995). The attainment of students, in terms of knowledge, skills and understanding in CEG, was reported as satisfactory in the majority (70%) of secondary schools and about half the students appeared to make good progress at the end of KS 3 and during KS 4 (Ofsted, 1998). The reports raised concerns about students' needs to develop a better and more realistic understanding of the changing nature of the workplace and the implications for their own futures. Most Year 11 students were found to have a limited understanding of post-16 General National Vocational Qualifications (GNVQs) courses, and students' knowledge and understanding of the demands of GCE A-level were reported as superficial among half of those who were considering this path (Ofsted, 1998).
  • Two studies evaluated the impact of the Year 9 and 10 Initiative introduced in 1995 to improve the quality and coverage of careers guidance for pupils from the age of 13 (DfEE, 1994). Ofsted (1995) reported that the impact of the Initiative in the first year was 'modest' with 'considerable confusion' found in schools regarding its purpose and scope. The report is critical of some institutions that lack a coherent and developmental CEG provision across the Key Stages. Only a third of schools were reported as providing 'good' or 'very good' CEG for their students. The quality of provision in another third of schools was reported as 'poor' and as providing only limited benefits to students. The report highlighted that the impact of various government initiatives had, in many cases, been limited.
  • The later study (Ofsted, 1998) assessed the impact of the Year 9 and 10 Initiative as 'satisfactory' in nearly half of the schools. However, a quarter of schools were reported as failing to offer a planned and well-organised programme of careers education. The study indicates that provision varied in terms of the content and organisation of CEG. The time allocated for careers work was judged as 'unacceptable'. However, the authors reported that the initiative had increased the amount of time for careers teaching in Year 9 in over half of schools, with additional time reported as being spent on work associated with option choices, introducing students to the careers library, and explaining the work of the careers service.
  • Morris et al. (1998) also indicate that the development of career-related skills was associated with a number of school-level factors: school type; the ability profile of the pupils in the school; and the type of CEG provision. The ability profile was reported to be a significant factor in the development of 'factual knowledge', 'careers exploration skills' and 'transition skills'. Students who were based in guidance community schools, consistently demonstrated significantly higher levels of 'careers exploration skills' than students in other schools. The level of 'careers exploration skills' was also found to be significantly lower where CEG was delivered primarily through parallel provision. Young people's 'decision-making skills' and 'openness to guidance' were less well developed in such schools.
  • The Welsh study (OHMCISW, 1997) reported that, although the quality of CEG in Welsh schools was 'satisfactory', there was a significant amount of unsatisfactory practice in KS 3, especially in relation to providing information that enabled pupils to take account of the career implications of courses to be followed in KS 4.
  • Overall, the evidence suggests that the quality of teaching in CEG is varied (Ofsted, 1995, 1998; OHMCISW, 1997). Ofsted (1998) indicates that although the quality of teaching is satisfactory in the majority (80%) of careers lessons and half of the teachers have a very good understanding of CEG, the other half are insufficiently trained for careers work and are in need of further support. The report goes on to say that there are not enough suitably qualified teachers of careers education and only a third of co-ordinators hold a recognised careers qualification. In the Welsh study (OHMCISW, 1997), teaching by trained and experienced staff is reported as generally good. Authors report that well-planned lessons, based on clear aims and objectives, give pupils a clear insight into career choices available and the implications of these choices. However, when a careers programme is taught by non-specialists, the quality of the teaching varies widely, especially at KS 3. Overall, the evidence implies that the lack of expertise in the delivery of CEG is an important variable that impacts negatively on young people in transition.
  • CEG was primarily delivered through Personal and Social Education (PSE) at KS 3 in three of the studies in the in-depth review (Morris et al., 2001, Ofsted, 1998; OHMCISW, 1997). Ofsted (1998) reported that the links and relationships between careers units and other aspects of the PSE programme were frequently not clear to students. There was also evidence suggesting that the time allocated to CEG was insufficient to meet the needs of all students (Morris et al., 2001; Ofsted, 1995, 1998). In Wales, for example, the amount of time allocated to CEG in Year 9 was between two and 12 hours, averaging about four hours in the schools inspected (OHMCISW, 1997). Overall, the studies imply that more time allowed for CEG would have a more positive impact for young people. Indeed, Morris et al. (2001) identified best practice as being in schools which had a timetabled allocation of at least 50 minutes a week for the CEG programme for each of Years 9, 10 and 11.
  • Howieson and Semple (1996) report that young people's perceptions of career guidance and their willingness to make use of it depended largely on the individual responsible for the delivery. Although some pupils associated career guidance with individuals who were in trouble or who were perceived to be experiencing problems, the majority still felt strongly that career guidance should be available to all pupils. In the same study, pupils identified a need for more CEG. Pupils, including the more academically able, identified a need for greater contact with the careers service. However, careful consideration should be given to the timing of the intervention to ensure that young people receive the support they need well before the point at which they must make decisions about future educational and employment opportunities.
  • From 1998, DfEE policy required careers services to focus the delivery of their guidance services more overtly on need. The particular aspects of need identified were derived from the social inclusion agenda and included low achievement, low aspiration, disaffection and unsuccessful progression to learning beyond 16. In order to facilitate this differentiation of their work, careers services were required to pay particular attention to the development of careers information and education in schools (DfES, 2001a). These initiatives have, in some cases, led to better provision for students who would previously have been lost in the system, according to Morris et al. (2001). However, the same study reports a number of difficulties arising from the introduction of the focusing agenda. Authors report a lack of awareness in schools of the role of personal advisers, the scope of Connexions and the implications for student support. Many schools were unable to accommodate necessary staffing and timetable changes, thereby putting pressure on the careers service to continue previous levels of school-based provision.

What is the impact of specific CEG programmes on the transition between KS 3 and KS 4 and on learning and development during KS 4?

The evidence suggests that young people's participation in specific CEG programmes or interventions can have a positive impact on the transition between KS 3 and KS 4. Three out of 10 studies examined the impact of specific CEG programmes on young people within the specified age range. Only one of these was judged to provide a high weight of evidence (Edwards et al., 1999) and two a medium weight of evidence (Luzzo and Pierce, 1996; Peterson et al., 1999).

  • All of the above studies suggest that young people's career-related knowledge appears to be influenced positively by participation in specific CEG programmes.
  • Edwards et al. (1999) report that the Real Game career exploration programme is an appropriate mechanism for use with young people in KS 3. The authors report that learning outcomes achieved after participation in the Real Game programme were consistent with career-related learning outcomes expected at KS 3. The research suggests that the use of such programmes enables young people to acquire the knowledge and skills to ease the transition process.
  • According to one US study (Peterson et al., 1999), there is a direct correlation between the level of career guidance interventions and the extent to which young people are able to prepare successfully for the transition to high school. The authors argue that, without at least some exposure to easily comprehensible print-based materials, many students risk choosing maths and science courses that are inappropriate for their career aspirations.
  • Luzzo and Pierce (1996) suggest that students' readiness to make realistic educational and vocational decisions can be realised 'in a relatively brief period of time' after using computer-assisted careers guidance (CACG) systems, such as DISCOVER.

How does careers education and guidance affect the transition process and/or learning and motivation?

The studies identify a number of ways in which CEG can help to support young people through the transition from KS 3 to KS 4. At this stage of their education, young people are required to make important choices about their future. In order to make appropriate decisions, young people need to be aware of the implications for their future and develop certain skills, such as confidence. The evidence suggests that the provision of CEG at KS 3 may be critical to enabling young people to prepare for this transition. All the included studies provide some evidence to explain how aspects of CEG may positively or negatively affect the transition process.

  • According to Morris et al. (1998), young people seemed more able to identify their strengths and weaknesses where they had taken part in a school curriculum that had enabled them to develop confidence, helped them to make satisfactory subject choices at Year 9, and given them some clear ideas about their future after the end of Year 11.
  • However, the lack of a coherent strategy for CEG across the Key Stages in some schools may have a negative impact on the transition process (Ofsted, 1995). A significant amount of unsatisfactory practice was identified in Welsh schools at KS 3 (OHMCISW, 1997), especially in relation to the provision of information designed to enable pupils to take account of the career implications of their chosen courses in KS 4. The authors concluded that well-planned lessons, based on specified aims and objectives, give pupils a clear insight into the career choices available and the implications of these choices. However, the evidence suggests that, in many schools, insufficient time is invested in assisting pupils at KS 3 to identify and apply their individual strengths and aptitudes to subject choices. As a result, young people are at risk of making inappropriate subject choices which could have implications later on.
  • Young people's career-related skills can be enhanced with the use of clearly targeted interventions, provided by informed guidance counsellors and school staff working in collaboration. The study by Peterson et al., (1999) found a direct correlation between the level of career interventions and the degree to which participants were able to prepare successfully for the transition to high school.
  • Students' readiness to make realistic educational and vocational decisions, and attitudes towards the career decision-making process, can be improved by using a CACG system such as DISCOVER, according to Luzzo and Pierce (1996).

What factors modify the effects of careers education and guidance?

Careers education and guidance is just one of many factors that influence young people in transition between KS 3 and KS 4. Three key factors, other than CEG, are identified in the studies reviewed as influencing young people in transition: parents; socioeconomic background; and gender.

  • Ofsted (1998) refers to parents as a key influence on young people's choices. However, the same report indicates that, although parents are informed and involved in decisions associated with Year 9 options in the majority of schools, the skills and experience of parents are rarely used within CEG programmes.
  • Evidence from the US identifies a need for both the support of parents and involvement in a comprehensive school-based career guidance programme that develops young adolescents' need for confidence around career-related competencies such as career planning and occupational exploration (Turner and Lapan, 2002).
  • Socioeconomic background, associated with parental influence, is also identified as an important factor that modifies the effect of CEG. Morris et al. (1998) found that students in schools in areas of high urban deprivation, where a significant amount of effort had gone into raising opportunity awareness and developing transition skills, may not have a positive attitude towards guidance.
  • There is some evidence to suggest that there is a need to address emerging gender issues in CEG provision. Morris et al. (1998) indicate that there may be gender differences in the ways in which resources are perceived and used by young people. Another study, carried out in the US (Turner and Lapan, 2002), identified gender and career gender stereotyping as a predictor of adolescents' interests in particular careers.

Strengths and limitations

Strengths

The systematic review process has enabled the review group to undertake an objective assessment of the available research to provide a sound evidence base for practitioners and policy-makers. The process has identified gaps in the research that are relevant for young people in transition from KS 3 to KS 4. The results raise concerns about the quantity and quality of published research that considers the impact of CEG delivered at this crucial stage for young people. Concerns about the transparency of methodologies in research reports have also been raised.

Limitations

The review group is aware that there may be studies which have not been identified. There is a possibility that unpublished reports and PhD theses may provide relevant research evidence, but these can be difficult to track down and costs may be prohibitive. It should also be noted that studies that are not written in English may also provide insight into the impact of CEG on young people's transitions in education.

Difficulties were identified between the timing and writing of the protocol, and the practical application of protocol criteria to the review. In the future, this could be overcome by clarifying all research issues prior to finalising the protocol.

The systematic review identified some studies which, although highly relevant to the research question, had to be classified as being of a low weight of evidence on account of the lack of reported methodological processes, or because the methods were not very appropriate to the review question.

The conclusions that can be drawn from the review are limited due, at least in part, to the limited nature of the research available and the lack of differentiation in the research literature between CEG at KS 3 and KS 4. There is also a disadvantage common to systematic reviews in that, when changes in policy and practice do occur, it takes time for primary studies to be commissioned and completed, which in turn impacts on how quickly the results of any changes in policy or delivery can be incorporated into systematic reviews.

The review was, to some extent, limited by technical difficulties experienced in the early stage of the research process. The transparency of the process would have been improved by the provision of appropriate software and importation filters that would have eliminated the need for online screening. Thus, the review group would have been able to account for all studies that were excluded by title and abstract.

The terminology used by some authors can be misleading. For example, the unqualified use of the term 'significant' implies statistical significance. Therefore, caution is needed when interpreting the results of studies where authors are not explicit about the analysis of data. A further example is the use of the terms 'knowledge and skills'. In some cases, authors use these terms to describe particular pre-defined knowledge and skills that are subject to measurement in the studies. However, there are also cases where these terms are used generally with no qualification. Such instances lead to vague conclusions which can mislead the reader.

Implications

The systematic review process has identified both gaps in the research and shortcomings in the research evidence that are highly relevant to our review questions relating to young people in transition from KS 3 to KS 4. In particular, the impact of the recent rapid and far-reaching changes, including the careers service focusing agenda in the UK and the introduction of Connexions in England, have not been adequately covered in this review because of the lack of research evidence. The results raise concerns for policy-makers, practitioners, researchers and other end users, about the quantity and quality of published research that considers the impact of CEG delivered at this crucial stage for young people. The lack of differentiation between CEG management and delivery at KS 3 and KS 4 is a particular concern. The lack of studies that highlight the differences between CEG at these Key Stages has serious implications as students' needs are very different at these transition points. The small number (n=2) of studies that were considered to provide high weight of evidence for this review means that conclusions must be tentative. However, the existing evidence suggests that CEG can have a positive impact on the transition process for young people, if delivered appropriately by adequately trained staff across the Key Stages. This is particularly important in view of the decision to extend statutory provision of CEG to Year 7 and Year 8 from September 2004.

Implications for policy

Policy-makers need reliable evidence to inform the development of policies and demonstrate the effectiveness of policy decisions. However, the review reveals a number of gaps in the research available to inform such decisions. The following implications for policy-makers have been identified through this review:

  • There is a lack of research evidence that provides high-quality, up-to-date evaluation of the impact of CEG delivered in schools or through external organisations.
  • The majority of UK studies included in the review were carried out prior to the careers service focusing agenda in the UK and the introduction of Connexions in England. Although some studies refer to careers companies and partnerships, there seems to be little evidence about their effectiveness.
  • Policy-makers commissioning research should address the current lack of differentiation between the management and delivery of CEG at KS 3 and KS 4 in research reports. Students have differing CEG needs at each Key Stage. How these needs are effectively met to support successful transitions should be highlighted in future research design.
  • The lack of evidence suggests that more work is needed to assess the effectiveness of CEG during the transition from KS 3 to KS 4, in order to ensure that policy and practice have a sound evidence base. Policy-makers should consider reviewing funding mechanisms to facilitate research, publication and dissemination of work in this important area.
  • The evidence base of the OFSTED and Her Majesty's Inspectorate (HMI) studies was not included in the published report, which made it difficult to assess the reliability and validity of the findings. Therefore, it is suggested that a technical report be made available to supplement the main findings.

Implications for practice

It is equally important that practitioners and professional bodies have access to reliable research evidence on which to base their practice. In particular, the sharing of good practice is invaluable for those involved in the delivery of CEG. The lack of evidence resulting from this review highlights the need to develop a research culture within organisations to ensure that programmes and interventions are more closely monitored and evaluated. The implications of the review findings for practitioners are as follows:

  • The reviewed studies have provided some evidence to suggest that clearly targeted interventions may ensure that young people avoid inappropriate subject choices that may have serious implications for their future education and careers. Interventions should continue to be reviewed and evaluated through rigorous research and the findings disseminated. This will ensure that effectiveness is monitored and good practice is captured and shared.
  • Practitioners should work with their practice community network to contribute to the sharing of best practice. Where necessary, practitioners should lobby professional bodies and policy-makers to improve provision for young people in transition.
  • Research evidence to evaluate the impact of new approaches to CEG (such as distinctions between self-help, brief-assisted and intensive support), and new methods (including one-to-one, group work, and Information and Communications Technology (ICT)) is not apparent from this review. Practitioners should ensure that learning outcomes from the use of new approaches to CEG are evaluated, reported and disseminated within their practice communities.
  • The review has identified some concerns about staff training and the lack of suitably qualified teachers to deliver careers education. However, there is limited recent research to provide evidence of the nature and the extent of this problem. Professional bodies and employers should support and encourage staff to enhance their capacity to deliver CEG.
  • The review revealed evidence from one study to suggest that access to the careers library was 'poor' for a quarter of students. Again, there appears to be no recent evidence to suggest that the situation has improved. Practitioners should ensure that issues such as students' access to resources are monitored and that, where necessary, practices are reviewed.
  • Students have identified a need for guidance well before the point at which they need to make decisions about their future. However, the evidence suggests that there may be a reluctance to approach staff for help, as guidance is perceived by some to be associated with having a problem. Practitioners should actively promote the value of CEG to students from Year 7 in order to raise their awareness of its potential benefits.
  • The review identifies the lack of a coherent strategy for CEG across the Key Stages. This is shown to have a negative impact on the transition process. An approach to CEG which is based on identifying appropriate learning outcomes to meet students' differing needs at each KS, might support the transition process.
  • Some unsatisfactory practice at KS 3 was identified by the review. The provision of information to enable pupils to take account of the career implications of courses at KS 4 is essential, especially in view of the 14 to 19 curriculum developments. Pupils can then apply their own individual strengths and aptitudes to subject choices. This should form a key aspect of CEG at KS 3.
  • The review reveals concerns about students' needs to develop a better and more realistic understanding of the changing nature of the workplace and the implications for their own futures. The new 14 to 19 agenda makes this even more crucial and practitioners should work to ensure that this forms an important aspect of CEG.
  • The review highlights that Year 11 students lack understanding of both post-16 GNVQ courses and the demands of 'A' level courses. A secure knowledge of all the post-16 options available and the implications of these for individual students is essential for realistic choices to be made.
  • Parents are identified as key influences on young peoples' choices. The review finds that the skills and experiences of parents are rarely used within CEG programmes. Practitioners could usefully identify ways in which parents' contributions to CEG can be recognised and utilised more fully.

Implications for research

The results of this review also raise a number of key issues for researchers:

  • Only two of the 10 studies in the review have been judged as providing a high weight of evidence relating to the impact of CEG on the transition from KS 3 to KS 4. In general there is a need for funding mechanisms to support high-quality research into the impact of CEG. Specifically in some cases little information was provided on which judgements could be made about methodological issues such as sampling, consent and analysis. Researchers should ensure transparency of methodologies and give due consideration to this in the execution and reporting of research projects.
  • A number of studies were excluded as they did not provide sufficient differentiation between CEG at KS 3 and KS 4. Future research design and reporting should differentiate between Key Stages in order for conclusions to be made on the differing effectiveness of CEG at each KS. Students have differing needs at each KS and therefore, appropriate curriculum and interventions are needed to meet these needs. Research findings should enable these to be clearly identified.
  • Care should be taken to ensure that terms such as 'significance' are not used indiscriminately. Authors should avoid the use of vague terms such as 'knowledge and skills', without providing clear definitions for their readers.
  • Researchers should, wherever possible, publish and disseminate their research findings across the policy making and practice communities to ensure that evidence is accessible to users. Researchers should consult, and seek feedback from, end users of the research.
  • The student experience appears to be under-represented in the research evidence. Although some studies used focus groups with students, only one study allowed the student voice to be heard, by using quotations from respondents in the report. Researchers should, where possible, allow the student voice to be heard by researching and reporting the student experience.
  • More research is needed on actions and influences that impact on transitions across KS 3 to KS 4 to the point when decisions are imminent.
  • The influences of 'internal' and 'external' factors on the outcomes of transitions need to be explored and assessed. In particular, the influences of external factors - such as parental involvement, socioeconomic constraints, family relationships, support services and environmental factors - need to be considered when designing research studies.
  • The review has identified that gender may be an important issue in two respects: first, it has been suggested that boys and girls make different use of careers resources; and second, there is some evidence in the US that students' aspirations may be based on gender stereotyping. Research is needed to explore students' gender-based perceptions of particular careers.

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Peterson GW, Long KL, Billups A (1999) The effect of three career interventions on educational choices of eighth grade students. Professional School Counselling 3: 34-41.

Turner S, Lapan RT (2002) Career self-efficacy and perceptions of parent support in adolescent career. Career Development Quarterly 51: 44-55. 

This report should be cited as: Moon S, Lilley R, Morgan S, Gray S, Krechowiecka I (2004) A systematic review of recent research into the impact of careers education and guidance on transitions from Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4 (1988 – 2003). In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. 

  
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