Primary school children

Case studies of schools teaching careers and equality

Case studies of schools teaching careers and equality

We’ve come across many schools doing great work around careers and equality. The benefits for both pupils and the schools should give a clear indication of how positive a focus on careers at this age can be.

“In 2010 South Wigston High School started to introduce careers based learning across the school from Years 6 to 9. This is not an area we had looked into before, because we assumed the focus for an intensive programme of learning belonged more properly in KS4. We established a scheme of learning with suggested lesson plans for teachers to use.

Feedback suggested that pupils found the learning relevant and practical and we received positive comments from staff too. We were also able to tackle issues of stereotyping and discrimination at a much younger age, and analysis suggested this had a significant impact with younger pupils still at a more malleable age. They responded well to having their thinking challenged in a way which changed their perceptions for the better, and this will hopefully help to enhance their life chances.

This programme by the Equality and Human Rights Commission provides a great set of activities which are not prescriptive. They can be customised by individual teachers, so that they can meet the requirements of the programme of study using their own style and approach but from a common basis and with a common purpose, namely to open the window of opportunity for our pupils as they grow up in an increasingly complicated world.”

Mrs Thompson, Head teacher

“The crucial element for Careers Related Learning for our children is to develop their self-esteem and motivate them to see that there are many different exciting opportunities available to them, which can improve their lives both socially and economically. At Falla Park it is a vital tool for promoting equality of opportunity and helping children and parents to understand the relevance of their learning.

As the Head Teacher, I was impressed that the project not only broadened the children’s horizons and opened up their eyes to careers they had never even heard of, but it also raised their aspirations and gave them a belief that these opportunities were available to them in their future if they believed in themselves and worked hard.

Since taking part in the Pathfinder initiative we have recognised the many benefits such as: engaging and motivating children, tackling ingrained stereotypes and getting children and parents to see the value of education. As a staff we have now developed Careers Related Learning as an integral part of our whole school curriculum. Our curriculum was recognised as outstanding in our recent Ofsted Inspection in September 2011.

Our Year 6 children particularly enjoyed visits to Gateshead College and Newcastle University. As a teacher, it was wonderful to listen to the children being so enthusiastic and aspirational about what they wanted for their future.”

Mr Ben Bardell, Deputy Head teacher

“In general terms we always ensure where possible that we use local experts to enrich our curriculum. This often means that we draw on local people that may or may not be parents and may be focused on careers or personal expertise.

Our local experts work with us in a variety of ways to enthuse and inspire pupils from bringing their own knowledge and experience to lessons, to giving careers talks and acting as mentors. We’ve had a Scientist parent teach a session on space, an Executive Chef run a bread making workshop and a Firefighter in uniform support a year 5/6 science day, to name a few.

We showcase careers in other more direct ways too. For example, two parent Nurses – one male and one female – came into school in uniform to explain their roles to pupils as well a veterinary nurse who described her role in caring for animals.

We also launched a new initiative this year called Man Friday. We have a lot of female volunteers (mainly mums) who come into school on a regular basis. Through our Man Friday initiative, we want to raise the profile of men in school, particularly to raise aspirations of the boys and to boost our efforts in closing the gap between boys and girls. Through this initiative we will showcase a lot of different careers – we are keen to get pupils to see our male role models as learners.”

Chris Andrews, Class teacher

“At Barlby primary school, we want our pupils to think they ‘can’ do something rather than they ‘cannot’; raising children’s aspirations is a real priority for us.

That’s why we run Junior Apprentice Week which involves the whole school, from 4 year olds to those preparing for transition at 11. During Junior Apprentice Week, career-related learning is totally immersed into the curriculum with a collection of activities organised for different days.

Our timetable of activities this year (academic year 2011/2012) included the following:

  • Monday – We ran a classroom carousel activity. Lessons focused on design and make projects and team building activities.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday – We ran our own version of the Apprentice where pupils were set challenges for the day. The classes convened later in the day, during assembly time, to present the fruits of their labour.
  • Thursday – We invited parents and local businesses to come and speak to the children about the nature of their work. The sessions were 20 minutes long and pupils were given plenty of opportunity beforehand to prepare questions. The speakers made a real impression by bringing in equipment to show the pupils so that they could see some of the practical skills required.
  • Friday – A fantastic exhibition was held at the end of the week to showcase all the great work from Junior Apprentice Week. Pupils from each class were selected to represent their class and to explain their work at the exhibition. Parents were invited too and it presented a great opportunity to reinforce the importance of career-related learning in a fun and positive way.

We understand the importance of opening pupils’ eyes to possibilities and a week of activities themed as Junior Apprentice Week provided an exciting way to deliver this crucial learning.”

In September 2009, five primary schools in the City of York tested and delivered programmes of career-related learning.

Each school identified outcomes specific to their current cohorts needs and developed appropriate activities to address these. These included: building children’s confidence, addressing stereotyped ideas around gender-specific and status-specific jobs, encouraging teamwork and the ability to meet new children prior to transition, building resilience and coping with change, ‘seeing how others see me’ and skills needed for work.

Activities took place both in and out of the classroom and consisted of one-off sessions and the inclusion of career-related learning outcomes to the existing curriculum. Pupils had the opportunity to meet employers in a variety of situations (particularly with a view to finding out about jobs not available in their immediate area or which they might never have considered or heard of before). They visited places of work, FE and HE institutions, took part in a drama workshop and presented their ideas to the school and wider community about how they see their future and addressing the transition to secondary school.

Children took part in activities enthusiastically and fed back their enjoyment after each session. Here are some of their comments:

  • “Today I learnt that when people say you can’t do something listen to the voice in your head! My favourite part was looking at things in a different way.”
  • “I learnt a lot about how to feel confident in myself. Also it was good because I can achieve a target or job if I work hard, focus and do my best.”
  • “The sooner you get interested in the future, the sooner you can learn what you need to achieve it.”

Involving parents was also considered key to the success of this work. Schools focused on helping parents to understand the aims of the career-related learning programme and supported them in achieving their potential as role models to their children. Schools delivered a number of tailored guidance and information sessions as well as running drop-in sessions at appropriate school events. Here are some comments from parents at one of the schools:

  • “At first I thought it was too early, but I do think it’s good now I know it’s about widening the children’s ideas and going against stereotypes rather than asking them to make decisions.”
  • “It’s good they get to find out about ideas and choices that are going to be open to them before secondary school.”
  • “It’s a really good idea, you can’t start too early – they need to know why school is important and have direction before leaving school to keep them focused and interested. Lots of young people at 16 go on the wrong courses because they make the decision too quickly.”

Last updated: 11 Jul 2016