Less than a third of disadvantaged pupils find school careers advice helpful

Teach First urges the government to spend between £10m-£31m on training "careers leaders" in secondary schools

Andy Binkiewicz

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Teach First has called for a reform of careers education to offer students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds better access to guidance and work experience opportunities.

The proposal comes as research conducted by the charity, with ComRes, found less than a third (32 per cent) of the most disadvantaged students considered careers advisors to be helpful.

Teach First argues that the government should fund training for a “careers leader” in every secondary school as part of its forthcoming careers strategy to help the least advantaged students to break into top professions.

Teach First and accountancy firm PwC have calculated the costs of training these leaders, who would be in charge of career education in schools. According to their calculations, it would amount to £12.76 per pupil, and it would set back the government in total £31m.

On the other hand, if the training was targeted at the third of schools in the most disadvantaged areas, the cost would be £13.05 per student, meaning an overall cost of £10.5m.  

Disadvantaged students

The ComRes research surveyed more than 2,000 18-25 year olds to compare their access to work experience while in education.

It showed that the disadvantaged students were able to rely far less on their connections to find work experience. Only 18 per cent claimed to have done so, as opposed to 44 per cent of wealthier students.

Meanwhile, the proportion of the least advantaged students undertaking internships and work placements in professional areas such as engineering and architecture was 12 per cent, compared with 27 per cent of the most advantaged students.

James Westhead, executive director of Teach First, said: “We know that pupils in low-income communities have less access to the careers support they need than their wealthier peers – so even when they have the grades to progress they often fail to fulfil their ambitions."

He added: "Good careers provision can be transformational in helping these young people.

"When done well it’s about more than just helping young people get the jobs they want - there are benefits for the individual in increasing their employability, for employers in helping them to recruit staff who have the skills that they need, and for society in reducing unemployment."

Teach First recommendations

The survey also unearthed a discrepancy in the amount of work experience that students in England undertake. Nearly half of the respondents from the South East and London, 45 per cent and 49 per cent respectively, said they completed two or more work placements, but this was the case for only 37 per cent of students in the North of England.

According to Teach First, government support for careers advice should be focused at schools in low-income communities and should include:

  • A comprehensively trained careers leader in every secondary school, to lead on developing a whole-school careers and employability strategy. This training should last a minimum of six days, spread out during a year.
  • Senior leaders must support this work and all school leaders should undertake training to be equipped to play their role in supporting the delivery of careers provision in school.
  • To enable teachers to have time away from school, the government should invest £5.8 million of ringfenced funding for supply teacher cover.
  • Training for all other staff members to play their part in delivering good careers and employability learning across the curriculum.
  • Among several training routes, a careers leadership apprenticeship route should be developed, as part of plans to develop other middle leadership apprenticeships.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are in no doubt that good careers advice helps young people make informed choices about their futures.

"Alongside the £70 million we have invested in improving careers advice we have established the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC), which is building a national network of advisers to link schools with local employers and has already helped more than 250,000 young people.

“The CEC will also work with employers such as EDF Energy, Barclays and Rolls Royce in our 12 Opportunity Areas to give disadvantaged young people in those areas vital experience of the world of work. Our new T levels will also include a high-quality work placement‎, so that students can apply their learning in a real workplace environment.”

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Andy Binkiewicz

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