Revealed: Extent of private pupils' careers advantage

Private school students use networks to get work experience and benefit from better careers advice, research shows

Private school students benefit from much better careers advice and work experience opportunities, warns social mobility charity

Students at private schools are 4.5 times more likely to secure work experience through "the family or some of their friends" than their state-educated peers, a social mobility charity has revealed.

The charity upReach, which works to provide career and university advice to disadvantaged pupils, is releasing the research to coincide with the launch of its "Aspire" toolkit, designed to raise aspirations amongst sixth-formers.


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Using data from 4,500 students at university, the charity found that privately educated pupils are 125 per cent more likely than those from state schools to secure useful work experience through their family.

Private schools also give their students more careers advice, with those from independent schools 45 per cent more likely to say that their school had helped them to explore different suitable career options than those from state schools.

Private school advantage

And private school students were over six times more likely than state school peers to have had opportunities at school to connect with parents working in careers such as law, medicine, finance or accountancy.

State-educated pupils were also 42 per cent more likely not to have completed any work experience in a professional setting than their privately-educated counterparts.

Students from private schools were 31 per cent more likely not to have taken up non-professional part-time work, for example in a bar or supermarket.

The gap in careers advice from families widened for students eligible for free school meals. Privately educated students were 76 per cent more likely than those from state schools to say that their family had helped them to learn about graduate careers – this gap widened to 134 per cent when comparing pupils from fee-paying schools with those eligible for free school meals.

The research coincides with today's opening of nominations for the 2019 Student Social Mobility Awards, which takes place at the House of Lords on Wednesday 27 November.

Speaking to Tes, upReach CEO John Craven said his background as a teacher had highlighted the disparity between the kinds of careers advice different pupils receive.

Lack of careers advice

When working at Oxford Academy in Oxfordshire, which was then in special measures, he was “amazed by the lack of career knowledge students had”.

Pupils had limited careers provision, with Year 10 undertaking work experience at Primark.

Subsequently, he taught at independent Magdalen College, where there was “fantastic provision for careers.”

“Almost all pupils had done work experience with friends of their parents,” Mr Craven said.

Professionals gave weekly talks on a variety of careers, and students were fully prepared for university entrance, writing 5,000-word essays to support applications.

Mr Craven said the research highlighted the disparities in provision between the state and private sector.

Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds can have a “lack of understanding about the opportunities offered by prestigious universities,” he said.

The upReach toolkit will be distributed to 2,500 schools and colleges, giving advice on careers, university places and apprenticeship schemes.

Mr Craven said pupils from poorer backgrounds need better careers provision to make informed choices about where and what they study.

“We want to counter decisions people are taking that are not necessarily optimal for their future careers,” he said.

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