New 'careers leaders' role urged to help narrow the gaps

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

The on-going gap in careers advice and opportunities means that poorer young people “repeatedly find doors closed and paths to the top blocked”, it has once again been warned.

A report published this week by teacher training and social mobility charity Teach First highlights how despite years of policy focused on closing the achievement gap between rich and poor, the wealthy continue to dominate many professions.

The report – entitled Impossible? Improving careers provision in schools – is calling on the government to fund training for a “careers leader” in every school to take responsibility for careers education and to focus on closing this gap.

A ComRes survey for the report, involving 2,000 18 to 25-year-olds reveals that just one in five of the poorest pupils found work experience opportunities through their network of family and friends, compared to almost half of more advantaged young people.

Furthermore, more than twice as many wealthy pupils undertook work experience in professional services compared to the least advantaged young people (27 vs 12 per cent).

In addition to these problems, only 32 per cent of the poorest pupils found the advice given to them by their careers advisors helpful – despite poorer pupils being more reliant on this careers advice because of their lack of other connections.

It follows a Teach First report earlier this year that examined "the litany of barriers young people from low-income communities are forced to overcome to even have a chance at smashing through the so-called class ceiling" (Impossible? Social mobility and the seemingly unbreakable class ceiling, Teach First, March 2017).

This report highlighted that:

  • In every part of the country young people from poor backgrounds are less likely to do an Apprenticeship than their better off peers.
  • Only one in four young people from poor families make it to university, while nearly double their better-off peers make it.
  • For those who get to university, one in 12 freshers from poorer backgrounds drop out.
  • Only four per cent of doctors, six per cent of barristers, 11 per cent of journalists, and 12 per cent of solicitors have working-class backgrounds.

The report concluded: "We discovered that poorer young people repeatedly find doors closed and paths to the top blocked, regardless of their academic talents."

This week's report reiterates and builds on these findings. It outlines what best practice in careers provision might look like and proposes a new role of a "careers middle leader" in schools, describing a range of duties and responsibilities this position would take on. These include leading and implementing the school’s careers strategy, supporting classroom teachers and other staff, sourcing and accessing external support, establishing employer networks and engagement, planning schemes of work, and referring pupils to careers advisors.

The report states: “This leadership role, distinct from that of a teaching or pastoral role, is key in binding the overall careers strategy in schools. It is important that a member of a school’s senior leadership also has strategic oversight of this work, and how it fits in to the school’s wider plans and priorities.”

The report argues that training a careers middle leader in every school would cost £12.76 per-pupil, per-year – or £31 million overall – including training costs and supply cover.

James Westhead, executive director of Teach First, said: “We know that pupils in low-income communities have less access to the careers support they need than their wealthier peers – so even when they have the grades to progress they often fail to fulfil their ambitions. This is yet another example of the endless social mobility challenges disadvantaged young people continue to face.

“Good careers provision can be transformational in helping these young people. When done well it’s about more than just helping young people get the jobs they want – there are benefits for the individual in increasing their employability, for employers in helping them to recruit staff who have the skills that they need, and for society in reducing unemployment. It’s also fundamental in not letting valuable talent going to waste. This is why I urge the government to adopt this strategy to help support all young people to reach their full potential.”


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