The majority of schools in England are failing to give sufficient priority to enterprise education and work-related learning – and it is putting the nation's future economic prosperity at risk, Ofsted warns in a new report.
The inspectorate found that 36 out of 40 secondary schools visited by inspectors had not demonstrated an effective approach to enterprise education in the curriculum.
Ofsted's new report reveals that poor coordination between schools and businesses – and the absence of any overarching government strategy – has left large numbers of young people unprepared for the world of work.
School leaders said that pressures around finance and curriculum time had resulted in a limited focus on enterprise education.
In schools that only offered work experience to a small group of pupils, heads said this was because arranging it for all pupils was too time-consuming and it was impractical to administer on a large scale.
Pupils who spoke to inspectors during the visits frequently said that their experience of enterprise education tended to be a series of one-off events that lacked any sense of progression.
Work experience 'limited'
Other key findings from the "Getting ready for work" report include:
- It was often unclear whether enterprise education was having any impact on pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skill;
- Opportunities for pupils to take part in meaningful work-related learning or work experience were limited at key stage 4;
- Business involvement in some of the schools relied too heavily on the personal networks of teachers and parents. In some cases, opportunities only arose because the pupils’ parents were well connected;
- A lack of coordination across local areas has created an environment for schools and businesses that business leaders described as "chaotic" because of the lack of strategy;
- Schools appear to be more likely to promote apprenticeships than in previous years, but parents and pupils are concerned about the quality and reputation of apprenticeships.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted chief inspector, said: "The question of how well our school system is preparing young people for the world of work has never been more important. The future success and prosperity of the UK in a post-Brexit world will increasingly depend on our ability to harness home-grown talent and to encourage the creativity and innovation of our young people."
He added: “The career choices that young people make can be informed by the practical experience they gain at school. It is really important that schools are providing the right opportunities, working effectively with local businesses, to offer their pupils the chance to understand how businesses work. This is even more important for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“One of the ways we can bridge the social divide is by ensuring all young people have equal access to work-related knowledge that will guide and prepare them for the next stage of their lives.”