Call for renewed focus on work experience in Wales

Written by: Greg Lewis | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Work experience should be a feature of the new curriculum in Wales to help students go on to become creative and enterprising employees, Estyn has concluded.

In a report the education inspectorate for Wales is recommending that schools build on good practice and give pupils access to real-life work-related experiences.

The pressure on budgets and staffing levels over the years have reduced the number of schools which guarantee work placements for pupils.

However, Estyn is clear that the benefits of experience of the world of work are great and it wants schools to embed this into the new curriculum, the final version of which has just been published following consultation and which is due to roll-out from 2022.

Jassa Scott, strategic director at Estyn, said: “Links with employers can give pupils access to real-life work-related experiences. Although many schools hold an annual careers fair, arrange visits to workplaces and host careers speakers, only a minority now offer work experience.

“Schools need to carefully consider how they embed careers and work-related experiences when they design their new curriculum so that pupils have a wide range of real experiences in partnership with employers.”

The report features Ferndale Comprehensive School in Rhondda Cynon Taf where staff have tried to combat the lack of local employment opportunities by setting up a community enterprise.

It provides work “tasters”, work experience and year 11 Apprenticeships to learners.

The report’s authors accept that schools cannot do this alone. They recommend that the Welsh government works with Careers Wales and other partners to evaluate the impact of current programmes and produce guidance to support schools to make links with employers. It is also recommending that local authorities play their part in building links between schools and local businesses.

In Rhondda Cynon Taf, for example, the Education, Employment and Training team works with schools to promote and facilitate work-related education and partnerships with employers. It maintains a database of employers who are able to offer work-related experiences for learners or staff to visit schools to provide information about Apprenticeship pathways, work experience and work-related education.

It also highlights Llanidloes High School in Powys, which employs two work experience co-ordinators who make sure that work placements are effectively managed and are a positive experience for learners. They carry out pre-placement visits to all employers and help learners to set targets about what they want to achieve from their work experience.

But many schools in the report said they faced challenges to providing high-quality work experience. These include curriculum time, with the pressures of preparing learners for GCSEs, as well as decreasing resources and staff reductions.


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