The work, which was undertaken by ADR Wales researchers Dr Katy Huxley and Rhys Davies, used anonymised Careers Wales data to examine how the provision of careers support to key stage 4 (KS4) pupils varies with respect to their background characteristics and their responses to Careers Wales’s ‘Career Check’ survey.
Careers Wales is the national careers provider, working closely with schools to identify those most in need of support. Schools share information with Careers Wales about the characteristics of pupils (levels of attainment, attendance, FSM eligibility) to identify those pupils who are likely to be most at risk of becoming disengaged and falling outside the education, training or employment system. In addition, pupils have the opportunity to complete Careers Wales’s ‘Career Check’ survey, a diagnostic tool that helps careers advisors identify pupils who are most in need of support.
Using responses from the Career Check survey combined with data from the National Data Collection (NDC, formerly the National Pupil Database, NPD), the researchers examined how the provision of careers support to KS4 pupils varies with respect to their background characteristics and their responses to Career Check. The research showed that KS4 pupils who have low levels of attainment and who are eligible for free school meals are most likely to receive guidance irrespective of the responses that they provide via Career Check. This highlights the primacy of these indicators for careers advisors in prioritising support for KS4 pupils.
However, among those with higher levels of attainment, Career Check does provide the opportunity to identify those where there is cause for concern regarding their career planning capabilities. These findings demonstrate the intricacy with which pupils are identified as needing support.
Speaking of their findings, the research team said: “Our analysis based on administrative data provides a more nuanced understanding of how careers guidance is primarily targeted at disadvantaged groups. By providing us with a better understanding of the population at risk, these findings also have important implications in terms of evaluating the effectiveness of careers guidance.”
A second publication from the research team explored the influence careers guidance can have on transitions to Post Compulsory Education and Training (PCET) in Wales. The analysis examined rates of transition to PCET in Wales, whether the receipt of careers guidance during KS4 supports transition to PCET and, if so, does it benefit some groups of pupils more than others.
The study’s findings suggest that an intervention such as a careers guidance interview has positive impacts, especially among the most disadvantaged. Receipt of a careers guidance interview reduced the rate of pupils who become Not in Education or Training (NET) from 10% (the control group) to 8% (the treatment group). This 2-percentage point reduction in the rate of NET is equivalent to a 20% reduction in the likelihood of being observed as NET following compulsory education.
Further analysis reveals that this overall effect is being driven by the impact of careers guidance among particular sub-groups of pupils. We see that pupils who have low attainment at GCSE are 34% less likely to be NET if they receive a guidance interview. If pupils are FSM eligible, they are 39% less likely.
The research team plans to continue their studies using data from Careers Wales to examine which interventions yield the most benefit for pupils.
Careers Wales, formed in 2013, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Welsh Government, providing all-age independent and impartial careers services in Wales. Working with partners, Careers Wales supports schools to provide careers education and services, engaging with employers and colleges, as well as providing support to Welsh Government employment programmes such as Working Wales, ReAct+ and European Social Fund programmes. Careers Wales’ remit and funding is provided each year by Welsh Government Ministers.
ADR Wales has been working with Careers Wales to explore how the data it collects can be used to provide new insights as to the different circumstances and capabilities of its clients to help to inform improvements in service delivery.
“Careers Wales is extremely pleased to be working with ADR Wales to make our anonymised data available to them to undertake their invaluable research. The findings of the research are very positive, and it is great to see the impact our services have, particularly on those customers in the most disadvantaged groups. The relationship between Careers Wales and ADR Wales is an ongoing one that will help us learn more about how our services make a difference to the people of Wales and we look forward to the findings of future research exercises,” stated Philip Bowden, Head of Quality & Planning at Careers Wales.
ADR Wales is part of the UK wide ADR UK investment funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UKRI. ADR Wales brings together data science experts at Swansea University Medical School, staff from the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data (WISERD) at Cardiff University and specialist teams within the Welsh Government to develop new evidence which supports the Programme for Government by using the SAIL Databank at Swansea University, to link and analyse anonymised data.