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The Gatsby Benchmarks provide a world-class framework for career guidance, outlining the experiences and information each and every young person should have access to so that they can make an informed decision about their future.

As schools and colleges begin to work towards the Gatsby Benchmarks, the Gatsby Foundation and The Careers & Enterprise Company have been asked how the Benchmarks should be used for schools and students with special educational needs and disabilities. Young people attending special schools have a very wide range of special educational needs and disabilities, from behavioural and learning difficulties to physical and sensory disability.

We recognise that the Benchmarks set a high bar, but we believe that aspirations should be high for special schools, as they should be for mainstream schools.


Our decision

After consultation with representatives from different types of special schools (including Pupil Referral Units), together with SEND specialists from mainstream schools, we received a clear recommendation that it would not be appropriate to define a separate set of Benchmarks for these circumstances.

We recognise that some of the Benchmarks need different interpretation in special schools and for some SEND students in mainstream schools. We believe that, when interpreting the Benchmarks, it is the role of the professionals within the school or college to assess if their pupils will be able to access employment, training, further education or higher education. For example, for students with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan this judgement should reflect any relevant information in the Plan.

The Gatsby Benchmarks intend to give young people a framework for high quality encounters - not a set of inappropriate encounters. We believe that teachers and professionals are best placed to design and deliver appropriate careers programmes, underpinned by the Gatsby Benchmarks, for these young people.


Future support for SEND

The Gatsby Foundation, The Careers & Enterprise Company and Disability Rights UK, along with other partners in the sector, will work together over the next year to develop further best practice and interpretation of the Benchmarks in these settings. In particular we will be building on The Careers & Enterprise Company SEND toolkit to capture a wider range of contexts, for example in Hospital schools.

We also recognise that some special schools are concerned that their Compass reports don't reflect the excellent work they're carrying out.

Compass has always been designed to help and support the development of a careers plan. Careers Leaders working in special schools, or with cohorts of SEND students in mainstream schools, should use their professional judgement to decide what's appropriate for these young people. We aim to build guidance into Compass to make this as clear as possible.

This joint statement from The Careers & Enterprise Company, the Gatsby Foundation and Disability Rights UK is also supported by: the CBI; the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and members of the North East SEND careers working group (Ascent Academies Trust, Catcote Academy, Cleaswell Hill School (chair), Epinay Business & Enterprise School, North East Autism Society and the Percy Hedley Foundation); and members of The Careers & Enterprise Company SEND advisory group (Melvin Ruff, Enterprise Coordinator and Strategy Manager at Norfolk County Council, and Greg Kirkman, Enterprise Adviser and Managing Director of Ensafe Consultants, Ben Wilson, Enterprise Adviser and Managing Director of GrowthMesh, National Grid, iCould, and Talentino).