Careers strategy and primary schools

National Careers Week 2018 is here, the first since the government’s careers strategy, published in December 2017, acknowledge the benefits of starting careers guidance earlier. Announcing a £2 million programme to test approaches to careers guidance in primary schools shows that this is likely to be a priority area this year and about time too!

Much of the work we do here at Hopscotch has a careers slant to it. Increasingly we’re seeing this at primary level as teachers start to see the benefits of exposing pupils to the idea of work and skills from an early age. Only recently, John Lewis launched a free world of work resource that uses video as stimulus for activities mapped to careers learning outcomes for KS2. We’ve had some great feedback from teachers so far, showing there’s a real appetite out there.

Although it’s an under reported area, there is some evidence showing the positive impact of careers advice on children. Reports such as ‘Primary Futures: connecting life and learning in UK primary education’ (May 2017) highlight that employer engagement, if done correctly, is positively associated with improved attainment, as well as:
• An increase in pupils’ awareness of career/work opportunities
• An increase in understanding of the link between education, subjects and work opportunities
• A reduction in gender-specific career/role stereotypes.

Of course, the topic of primary schools and careers would benefit from more research, but what I’d really like to see is organisations being a little bolder, stepping forward and trialling some robust careers initiatives with younger students, even if on a tiny scale. After all, just like at secondary, with so much on their plate primary teachers can’t be expected to fulfil the role of careers inspiration alone. What's more, with the jobs of the future evolving every day, only industry volunteers can bring the latest insights to schools and really get the children excited about their futures.

So, what would I do with £2 million to enhance careers guidance in primary schools? I know where I’d start at least – small-scale pilots to boost encounters with employers and employees, and experiences of workplaces, two of the eight Gatsby Foundation benchmarks that now form a central part of the government’s ongoing strategy.

Logistics are clearly a major obstacle to making encounters possible; time, expense, resource and availability are all a premium for schools and business. Perhaps technology has a place here instead? What could be done virtually to bring volunteers to the classroom? Pre-recorded videos and immersive tours would be hugely interesting to explore and compare to the more traditional school-visit approach. This is a great opportunity for organisations to scale their work with schools and reach those schools further afield.

We’re looking forward to more organisations making primary careers a real focus and we’ll be following the conversation, including the government’s plans and #NCW2018 closely.

About the author

Ed Lang

Ed works across John Lewis, HS2, DfT and IGD which is exactly what he loves about working at Hopscotch – immersing himself in a variety of businesses, supporting them to deliver initiatives which meet business goals, as well as education needs. He firmly believes a robust and rounded experience of education is the best way to have long-term positive impact on young people and their futures.

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