PublicationsSystematic reviewsCEG ks3-4CEG ks3-4 - connexions
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. Connexions Manager perspective

Summary of the review

The review considers the range of research reports produced in the period 1988-2003, on the impact of careers education and guidance (CEG) interventions during transitions from Key Stage (KS) 3 to KS 4.

The rationale for the review is explained in the context of the economic and social importance of individuals making successful transitions through stages in secondary and post-compulsory learning. Comparisons are made with other European countries, revealing a lower level of participation in post-compulsory learning and of achievement at levels 2 and 3 in the UK than in competitor European neighbours.

In particular, the review looks for evidence of:

  • the effects of careers education and guidance during Key Stage 3 (KS3) on transitions between KS3 and Key Stage 4 (KS4), and on learning and development in KS4
  • the influence of internal and external factors on outcomes of transitions, such as motivation, parental involvement, and socioeconomic constraints
  • the impact of policy developments in CEG since 1995 in England on practice within and outside schools

From a large number of studies in the initial trawl, the screening process reduced this to ten studies which met the criteria for the review. Of these seven were carried out in the UK and three in the US. Of the ten, eight were carried out during the 1990's and therefore predate the major changes to the careers service/Connexions service which have affected the provision of CEG.

Analysis of the review

The following sections highlight some key points in the review from the perspective of a policy-maker.

The review identifies within the studies five sections under which to consider CEG provision and their respective contributions to transitions:

  • school policy and management
  • content and organisation of CEG programmes
  • qualifications of teaching staff delivering CEG
  • standards of students' work
  • library resources

The review identifies links between the standard of students' work in career-related learning, and the existence of a written CEG policy, CEG links to the school development plan, and a planned programme of CEG delivered by trained staff.

The review identifies evidence that, in most schools, students acquire a good knowledge and understanding of post-16 choices, but this does not extend to an awareness of the changing labour market and implications for choices, or a sufficiently detailed knowledge of the demands of GNVQ and A Levels to inform their choices.

In schools where CEG is fully integrated (referred to as the guidance community model) students demonstrate higher levels of career exploration skills than in other schools. Schools with a less integrated approach to CEG (referred to as parallel provision) demonstrate lower levels of career exploration skills, decision-making skills, and less openness to guidance.

The review identifies a link between the delivery of well-planned CEG lessons, students having a clear understanding of career choices and their implications, and delivery by trained and experienced staff.

The review seeks to assess the evidence that effective CEG supports transitions between KS3 and KS4. Where schools are successful in helping students develop the confidence to make decisions, transitions are seen to be more successful. However, in many schools there is evidence that insufficient time is spent helping students to develop self-awareness and consider the implications of their choices. Evidence of the role of guidance in helping students make successful transitions is highlighted.

The review identifies three key factors that can affect the extent to which CEG provision has a greater or lesser impact. These are listed as parents, socioeconomic background and gender. The evidence suggests that parents have a major influence on young people's choices but are rarely involved in the process managed by schools, beyond the provision of information. There is some evidence that in areas of high urban deprivation where there has been considerable investment in raising aspirations and developing transition skills, the students do not necessarily value access to guidance. Two studies cite gender as a key influence on career choice and the way in which careers resources are used.

Strengths and limitations of the studies and the evidence

The review identifies the available research base on which to make an assessment of the impact of CEG on transitions, and concludes that this is insufficient both in terms of quantity and quality to inform practitioners and policy-makers.

The point is made that much of the research has been carried out in an era prior to the current policy and delivery models operating in England to support transitions in KS3 and KS4, and hence cannot be used to evaluate effectiveness or plan for future development.

Other limitations include the lack of differentiation in the studies between CEG at KS3 and KS4, and some ambiguity about the use of phrases such as 'significant' (where results may not have a statistical significance), and 'knowledge and skills' which is used widely.

From a personal perspective, it would have been useful if a definition of 'successful transition' and 'satisfactory choices' had been provided, or if the features of successful transitions and satisfactory choices had been defined. This would have helped the reader to consider the extent to which the studies have attempted to measure the impact of CEG against these criteria.

Implications from the review

Despite the limitations of the studies, the review concludes that 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.

For policy making, reliable evidence is needed to inform policy development and demonstrate the effectiveness of policy decisions. The review concludes that there is a lack of high-quality up-to-date evaluation on the impact of CEG, that this evidence is largely out of date given the rapid changes to the careers service/Connexions, and that there is little or no attempt to differentiate students' needs between KS3 and KS4.

For practitioners, emphasis is put on the importance of sharing good practice, and developing a research culture within organisations to ensure that programmes are monitored and evaluated. This will assist practitioners when lobbying to improve provision, and ensure that new approaches are systematically evaluated. A number of other recommendations are made for practitioners.

For researchers, the review suggests that a more rigorous approach should be taken when determining a methodology, to ensure that the necessary data are available to back up judgements. A number of other recommendations are made for researchers.

This perspective was written in a personal capacity by a manager of a Connexions partnership external to the review and advisory groups.

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