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Free SEND resources to help centres meet Gatsby benchmarks

The Gatsby benchmarks have prompted much discussion on a crucial aspect of education for young people with SEND – how prepared they are to enter the world of work. Simon Lawrence, ASDAN’s Head of Business Development and Communications, provides a list of engaging activities aimed at helping learners develop their employability skills.

I know from personal experience the impact that work experience and encounters with employers can have on a young person’s ambitions. These experiences help provide learners with the knowledge to make informed choices, allowing them to fulfil their potential.

The Gatsby benchmarks, a framework of eight guidelines that define the best careers provision, are now at the heart of the government’s careers strategy for England. There is an expectation that all schools are now working toward the benchmarks and will meet them in full by the end of 2020.

Tailored careers approach for SEND learners

Following a period of consultation in 2018, a recommendation was made that it would not be appropriate to define a separate set of benchmarks for SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) settings. It was recognised, however, that some of the benchmarks may be implemented in a different way in special schools and colleges, alternative provision centres, and for students with SEND in mainstream education. It has also been acknowledged that the professionals who work with these young people every day are the experts and are therefore best placed to adapt their career guidance activity to the different needs of their learners. 

I am pleased that in July, following a period of further consultation this year with experienced SEND practitioners and national experts, the Gatsby Foundation, The Careers and Enterprise Company and Disability Rights UK published further guidance, information and examples of best practice in the Good career guidance: perspectives from the special educational needs and disabilities sector publication. This document, combined with the Gatsby benchmarks, shows the growing level of support and insight available to help SEND learners transition into work.

Developing high aspirations

The challenge of supporting SEND learners into employment remains significant – six per cent of adults with a learning disability known to their local authority in England are in paid work (NHS Digital 2018).

It is important that young people with SEND and barriers to learning have high aspirations and are aware of the employment pathways and opportunities available to them. These include volunteering, supported internships, traineeships and apprenticeships.

Employment isn’t everything of course, but it remains undeniably a very important part of life. When people have a job, they are more likely to feel part of society and have a stronger purpose that drives them every day.

Free resources

ASDAN’s Lifeskills Challenge programme, an online bank of more than 1,000 challenges ranging from pre-Entry to Level 3, supports the development of employability skills. Below is a list of free, downloadable Lifeskills Challenge activities that are mapped to each of the eight Gatsby benchmarks. These challenges can contribute towards helping your centre demonstrate you are meeting the Gatsby framework and doing all you can to prepare your learners for work.

The challenges have been suggested in accordance with the guidance provided in the SEND Gatsby benchmark toolkit.

1: A stable careers programme

Challenge: Planning and running a mini enterprise project

2: Learning from career and labour market information

Challenge: Using art to explore different occupations

3: Addressing the needs of each student

Challenge: Creating a personal profile: strengths and aspirations

4: Linking curriculum learning to careers

Challenge: Creating a healthy smoothie

5: Encounters with employers and employees

Challenge: Introduction to social action

6: Experience of workplaces

Challenge: Experience activities related to the world of work

7: Encounters with further and higher education

Challenge: Planning my career journey

8: Personal guidance

Challenge: Using advice and guidance

More information

Please feel free to get in touch if you would like more information on Lifeskills Challenge. You can also arrange to speak to one of our advisers about how the programme can help structure and accredit your curriculum.