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Careers education: What should young people learn and when?

Today we have launched an important new report, which sets out what young people should learn during their careers education, and when.

More Than A Job’s Worth: Making Careers Education Age-Appropriate was commissioned by the charity Founders4Schools, and argues that children’s careers education should begin as soon as they start school. While this is something that may make some people squeamish, the report sets out how this can be done in an age-appropriate way.

For example, the research highlights how some nurseries and primaries launching careers education early have added ‘jobs corners’ to their classrooms, where costumes, props and stories about different professions are available for pupils to explore.

The report also shows that one of the major benefits of a quality careers education can be the opportunity to open up children and young people’s horizons, exposing them to a broad range of ideas and challenging the early formulation of stereotypes. When done well, careers education helps young people learn about themselves, as well as about possible future pathways.

However, our research also highlights worrying gaps in provision, and the challenges facing teachers and schools supporting careers education. Some children and young people are less likely to experience a variety of quality careers encounters, including pupils eligible for free school meals, girls, and children from minority ethnic backgrounds.

What action does the research recommend?

As John Fallon, Chief Executive of Pearson says in his foreword to our report:

“The report rightly points out that, while the debates are not new, the responsibility on all of us involved in shaping the education system – policy-makers, businesses, practitioners and providers – is one that we must share equally and redouble our efforts to improve.

Our report sets out what young people should learn and when, and also a range of steps schools, government and others can take to ensure all pupils can benefit. This graphic, created by @ImpactWales, summarises our recommendations:

We make key recommendations that schools:

  • Begin age-appropriate, careers-related learning early, as soon as children and young people join the setting.
  • Appoint a senior leader, governor or trustee to take responsibility for planning each level of careers education.
  • Work with parents throughout the process, through actions such as inviting them into school to discuss their own work or hear careers talks alongside their children.

The government and other organisations supporting careers education can make changes that will improve careers provision too, and should commission research that compares the impact of different careers interventions on different age-groups, and enhance existing digital brokerage services and platforms so that these provide or signpost to additional support.

These recommendations are based on extensive research, including a literature review of the best-available evidence; two roundtables, which were attended by over 40 careers education experts and practitioners; interviews with experts; and nine case studies of primary, secondary and FE settings across the UK identified as using innovative approaches to delivering careers education and work experience.

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