ERO carried out this evaluation with support from Careers New Zealand. The report shares good practice with secondary schools and is intended to help Careers New Zealand in its role of improving career education practice and supporting those who influence students’ career decisions.

This report identifies and describes how schools have designed, planned and put in place effective careers education and guidance.

Why should school students participate in careers education?

The Government’s National Administration Guidelines for schools require schools to provide careers education and guidance through NAG 1(f) which requires each board, through the principal and staff, to:

Provide appropriate career education and guidance for all students in Year 7 and above, with a particular emphasis on specific career guidance for those students who have been identified by the school as being at risk of leaving school unprepared for the transition to the workplace or further education/training.

Careers education and guidance has two components:

  • career education (developing career management competencies of all students)
  • guidance (specific to each student’s needs).

Careers education and guidance helps students to understand the relevance of school to their future plans and improves their motivation to remain at school and achieve qualifications.

Schools vary in the ways they design their curriculum and provide pastoral care for students. Schools design their careers education and guidance to fit both of these.

Career management competencies for students include:

  • developing self-awareness
  • identifying possibilities and opportunities
  • understanding consequences of choices and decisions
  • making plans and taking action.

These link closely to the five key competencies identified in The New Zealand Curriculum: managing self, relating to others, participating and contributing, thinking, and using language, symbols and texts. Self-managing students are able to establish personal goals, make plans, put these into effect and identify ways to meet challenges.

Careers education also links with education policy initiatives that support students’ transition from school into study, training or work. These include Youth Guaranteeprogrammes such as trades academies, Vocational Pathways and Profile Builder(see Appendix 3 for further information).

Increasingly schools are introducing various forms of academic counselling, mentoring or coaching. Some schools include careers education and guidance as an important part of this practice. In these schools, each staff member is usually responsible for academic mentoring and pastoral care of a small group of students over several years. Some schools provide professional development and support for teachers as they take up these roles for the first time.

Development of careers education over time

Since 2005, there have been several initiatives to improve the provision of careers education and guidance (see Appendix 2 for more detail). These have involved professional development and resources to help schools design and implement school-wide approaches.

In 2009, the Ministry of Education published an updated edition of the career education guidelines for schools. These emphasised whole-school processes for planning, designing, implementing and evaluating careers education and guidance programmes 1.

In 2011, Careers New Zealand published the Career Education Benchmarks. These provide a framework for schools to review their careers education and guidance in relation to current understanding of effective practice and enable them to identify their strengths and their priorities for improvement. The Benchmarks include four dimensions: student career management competencies, leadership, information systems, and programmes and services. Careers New Zealand reviewed and revised the Benchmarks in July 2014, combining Information Systems with Programmes and Services and adding a new dimension on transition.

In 2012, ERO evaluated careers education and found that high quality careers education programmes were associated with:

  • support from school leaders
  • a whole-school approach
  • career advisers with relevant qualifications and experience
  • links with the curriculum and pastoral care
  • targeted provision for at-risk students
  • good relationships with parents/whanau and the community
  • regular review.

Other recent ERO evaluations of secondary school programmes have noted the importance of careers education and guidance and its links to curriculum and learning, student achievement, supporting students at risk, and students being well prepared for further education, training and work. Effective schools provided a range of curriculum courses and pathways, and careers education and guidance with pastoral care to support individuals (see Appendix 4 for summaries of these reports).