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Supporting better use of destinations data

25 May 2021

New research, commissioned by The Careers & Enterprise Company, shows how schools, colleges and local authorities are working together to improve destinations data.

Knowing what students go on to do after leaving school or college is a key indicator of the extent to which careers education has been successful. For individual students, destinations information combined with data on attainment, skills and interests, tells us whether they’ve made an informed, appropriate and sustained choice. Combined data for cohorts of students, year on year, tells us something more. It indicates patterns in the proportion of students following different pathways, how this is changing over time and how this varies for different groups.

As a Careers Leader, you might want to know whether your high attaining, Pupil Premium students are following similarly stretching pathways to their peers who were more advantaged. Or what the proportion of the girls achieving well in sciences at GCSE then pursued STEM Level 3 courses is. Looking at patterns, you might want to check whether your new approach in the careers programme to information and advice on apprenticeships has resulted in increased take-up.The value of destinations data is reflected in the Gatsby Benchmarks, which state that Careers Leaders should collect and maintain accurate data on the destinations of students after they leave school or college and use it to support student transitions and to evaluate and improve careers programmes.

However, we know from the experiences of Careers Leaders across the country that this is easier said than done. To help make progress, we partnered with York Consulting to review how schools, colleges and local authorities are currently working together on destinations data to find out more about the challenges, to highlight effective practice and identify opportunities for us at The Careers & Enterprise Company and our partners to improve the system.

So, what did we find out?

  • Good practice – but still room for improvement: Careers Leaders in schools make good use of destinations data, including for performance assessment (90%), evaluating careers programmes (82%), shaping future provision (74%) and supporting at risk groups. Even so, there’s untapped potential for greater use of more detailed data and to increase awareness among Local Authorities of the used it has in schools and colleges.


  • Resourcing is a challenge: Schools are struggling with tracking student destinations for 3 years, and often say they just don’t have the resources to do it. Where it works well, this is supported by having a lead person with responsibility, strong relationships with Local Authorities and colleges that led to data sharing, planning early before students leave school and using a range of approaches to keep in touch – with everything from social media to alumni networks. Tracking in the third year after leaving school remains universally challenging and could usefully be complemented by using the new longer-term destination measures published by DfE.


  • Systems can be a challenge – but there’s innovation to learn from: Some LAs have effective systems and processes for sharing with schools the destinations of 16 and 17 year olds (that they collect routinely for the National Client Caseload Information System). Careers Hubs and other local partnerships are also developing local solutions to improve data sharing. However, efforts are currently hampered by uncertainty about data protection requirements and the timeliness, accuracy and frequency of enrolment data shared by post-16 providers.

This report shows that there are many examples of great partnership working going on within Careers Hubs, Opportunity Areas and other parts of the country when it comes to destinations data collection and sharing. But if you are a Careers Leader, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to updating practice and recommending next steps to your senior management team. Here are initial steps you can take, coming out of this report:

  • Sign up for Compass+ so that you have a secure digital system for recording intended and actual destinations.
  • Contact your LA and find out who is responsible for 16 and 17 year olds and the data for the NCCIS. Explore whether they can share individual-level data with you to support tracking.
  • Engage students before they leave school to explain how knowing their onward destinations will help you provide good support for students in the future. Set up an alumni network and gather the consents needed in discussion with your Data Protection Officer.
  • Consult the long-term destinations of your school’s students to identify patterns by disadvantage, gender and attainment (see 11th link on this DfE page).
  • Look out for an update to the DfE guidance over coming months.
  • Read the report for more ideas and examples of local practice.

At The Careers & Enterprise Company, we are working on new guidance for Careers Leaders on destinations data to accompany the DfE guidance, exploring ways to share examples of effective local partnerships and practice, and providing support through Careers Hubs to find local solutions.

Many thanks to all the Careers Leaders, Network colleagues and LA staff who took part in the research. It’s given us a new insight into the breadth of experiences across the country. If you have other examples of effective practice in your local area, please get in touch with your Enterprise Coordinator or Hub Lead so that we can share those more widely.


Emily Tanner, Head of Research at The Careers & Enterprise Company.


Here, Emily Tanner shares what we’ve learned, highlights some top tips and explains how we plan to support Careers Leaders to make better use of data.

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