Starting Early: New research shows strong impact of career-related learning on primary-aged children
“A key part of the solution to the post-Covid education recovery and challenging stereotypes is giving children access to role models from the world of work who can inspire, motivate and help children see why education is relevant.” – Karen Giles, Head Teacher at Barham Primary School
Based on new in-depth research, insights and surveys, Starting Early: Building the foundations for success makes the case for career-related learning in primary schools. This new report provides the evidence behind a low-cost approach that is underexploited in addressing the challenges of ingrained stereotypical views and narrow aspirations of primary aged pupils – and is especially vital during the post-Covid ‘recovery curriculum’ period.
Primary children, who are among those who have missed the biggest proportion of their schooling during the pandemic, can be motivated and inspired through live, interactive virtual events where they meet and question a diverse range of working people across the UK from electrical engineers to Antarctic explorers.
Starting Early shows that the potential of career-related learning in primary schools is far greater than today’s practice. We can give children access to role models from the world of work and empowering teachers to connect directly with employer volunteers to organise high-quality career-related learning. These activities reduce stereotypes, enhance confidence, foster a positive attitude towards school, and improve attainment.
Findings from a national pilot and a survey of 10,000 children launched today shows that the Primary Futures programme results in improved motivation for maths, science and English and increases children’s future aspirations and desire to learn. The biggest impact has been on children from disadvantaged backgrounds who often don’t get access to a diversity of role models. This has been especially the case during lockdown.
Primary schools have always sought to provide enriching environments for children, introducing them to how society functions and the different roles available to play in it. Policy support has, however, only traditionally identified career-related learning as a distinct priority in secondary and tertiary education. The last two decades have seen a growing call for greater formalisation and support for primary schools, drawing on grass-roots practice, experimental suggestions from pathfinder programmes, and recommendations in government-commissioned reports.
The report draws on research from 2014-2021 and explores surveys of over 1,000 teachers and 10,000 children. Findings include:
- After participating in a career-related learning event, 82% of around 9,300 children agreed that “I now understand how learning Maths/English/Science can be useful in many jobs”.
- Following sessions, 84% of children understood that boys and girls can do the same job and 80% now agreed that “people like them” can be successful when they grow up.
- Out of some 1,200 children in schools with most economically disadvantaged students, 78% said “I now know there are lots of jobs available to me when I grow up” and 74% said “I feel more confident in what I can do after today’s activity”.
- The importance of early intervention can be seen in the persistence of preferences and stereotypes in career aspirations: sector and status preferences at seven-year olds are often surprisingly similar to those of 18-year olds.
Through its Primary Futures programme, Education and Employers supports teachers to organise events and surveys show this support is often the first time that teachers have engaged employers in a structured way to support learning. Teachers frequently go on to organise their own events, but help getting started is essential.
“Careers advice should start in primary school and this report highlights how important interaction with employers is from a young age” – Rt. Hon. Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Commons Education Select Committee.