Pupils go to parents, teachers and friends for careers advice – not to careers consultants, research shows

Survey findings come as the government pledges £4 million to appoint a careers leader in every school

Adi Bloom

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The vast majority of pupils consult parents, carers, teachers and friends before making decisions about higher education or careers, rather than turning to a careers consultant, new government research shows.

The finding has been published on the same day that the government announced it will be providing £4 million to fund a careers leader in every school by the start of the 2018-19 academic year.

Freelance careers researcher Deirdre Hughes surveyed more than 2,000 young people, including school pupils, further education students and those at university, on their careers decisions.

She found that, when making decisions about what to do after Year 11 or Year 13, three-quarters of pupils asked parents, carers or relatives for help and advice. Family members were by far the most popular source of advice.

Pupils 'unimpressed'

Subject teachers at school or college were the second most popular source of advice: their help was sought by 69 per cent of pupils planning to go to university and 68 per cent planning to study academic subjects at a further education college. Teachers were a less popular source of advice – at 48 per cent – for those pupils planning to pursue a technical route after school.

Pupils also tended to turn to friends for advice, or to staff encountered during an open day at a college or university.

Schools careers advisers came fifth on the list, with their advice sought only by 42 per cent of pupils planning to study at university, 38 per cent planning to take academic subjects at an FE college, and 40 per cent of those planning to follow a technical route.

When asked to rate how helpful they found these different sources of information, pupils revealed that they were unimpressed by careers advisers. Those pupils planning to go to university were most impressed by the advice given to them by staff during open-day visits to colleges or universities.

However, careers advisers were ranked seventh most helpful, out of 10 sources of information: below school teachers, parents and community workers, such as religious leaders or youth workers.

Making decisions

Among those planning to follow a technical route, either at university or at an FE college, careers advisers were ranked eight out of 10, in terms of how helpful they were in supporting the decision-making process.

Earlier today, the Department for Education announced that it will be allocating £4 million to fund the appointment of dedicated careers specialists, who will offer up-to-date advice on the job market.

The new research shows that pupils consult with an average of three sources when making decisions about their future.

Grammar school pupils, teenagers looking to follow an academic route, and those with at least one parent with a university education all start thinking about their post-16 decisions earlier than other pupils. Those on academic routes are also more likely to make a final decision about their future than those following technical pathways.

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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