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'We must be active in widening pupils' ambition'

Schools must make the most of the workplace opportunities they have on their doorsteps, writes Nick Chambers

We need to broaden pupils' ambitions in terms of the world of work, says Nick Chambers

Schools must make the most of the workplace opportunities they have on their doorsteps, writes Nick Chambers

Last week, we took some volunteers from the world of work to a primary school in Davos, Switzerland. You may ask: what’s so strange about that? Lots of people do this in England.

But what was different about this visit was that although the school was just one minute away from the World Economic Forum registration desk, this was the first time that these children had had any contact with the delegates who visit Davos every year.   

Andreas Schleicher , director for education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, was up first to speak to the children. He shared his experiences of being at school, the countries he has travelled to for his work and what he liked and disliked about his job. He then answered children’s questions in German.

Broadening children's career horizons

Children then heard from 15 volunteers from across the globe about their jobs. These included two members of the WEF executive and Andria Zafirakou, the first UK winner of the $1 million Global Teacher Prize. 


In preparation for the visit, the pupils had been asked to draw a picture of the job they wanted to do when they grew up. This built on the “Drawing the Future” study launched at the World Economic Forum last year. The analysis of the children’s drawings from Davos were illuminating and startling to their teachers.

None of the children had drawn a job relating to any of the jobs of those attending WEF – perhaps not surprising as before this event they had never met anyone doing them.

It was a stark reminder of the importance of role models, or, in the words of Marian Wright Edelman, an American activist for the rights of disadvantaged children, the idea that “you can’t be what you can’t see”.

Head principal of Davos Schools, Martin Flütsch, was surprised by the drawings. “We had not expected that our students would have such narrow ambitions for their futures,” he said.

For his students, the event was an eye-opener. It was wonderful that they had the opportunity to meet volunteers with very different jobs allowing them to look beyond the world that they know.

Nick Chambers is CEO of the Education and Employers charity

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