Teach First calls for reform of careers education to tackle skills gap

Teach First calls for reform of careers education to tackle skills gap

  • Only 32% of the most disadvantaged pupils say they found the advice given by careers advisors helpful
  • More than twice as many wealthy pupils (27%) undertake work experience in professional services, compared to the least advantaged young people (12%)
  • Nearly half (44%) of the most-advantaged young people found work experience through family and friends, compared to less than 1 in 5 (18%) of the least-advantaged
  • It would cost less than £13 per child, the cost of a trip to the cinema, for every school to have a trained careers leader

Today, education and social mobility charity Teach First have called upon the Government to fund training for a careers leader in every secondary school as part of their forthcoming careers strategy. With only 6% of doctors, 12% of CEOs, 12% of journalists and 13% of lawyers come from working-class backgrounds, the charity argues that the country’s top jobs are unfairly being dominated by those from more advantaged backgrounds. This is because those from more disadvantaged backgrounds are less able to rely on well-connected family and friends to help them get the opportunities they need to get ahead.

This has the potential to have a long-term and damaging effect on our country’s economy, as in the wake of Brexit, Britain is expected to experience a shortage of 3 million high skilled workers. It has never been more important to ensure all our young people are provided with the same support, enabling them to reach as far as their potential allows.

In a report released today, Impossible? Improving Careers Provision in Schools Teach First have worked with PwC to calculate the costs of training careers leaders who would take responsibility for careers education across a school. The report reveals that this amounts just to £12.76 per pupil, and an overall cost of £31 million over four years. If the training was targeted at the third of schools in the most disadvantaged areas, the cost would be £13.05 per child per year, or overall training costs of £10.5 million.

Teach First carried out research with ComRes surveying more than 2,000 18-25 year olds to compare young people’s access to work experience and opportunities while at school. The results found that the most disadvantaged students are not getting high quality support, with only 32% of them saying they found the advice given by careers advisors helpful when deciding what to do after finishing school.

The survey also found that the most advantaged students were more able to rely on connections such as friends and family to find work experience, with 44% claiming they have done so - compared to just 18% of the most disadvantaged. The least advantaged are most likely to find it themselves (42%).

Without access to the same connections, the least advantaged find work experience less helpful than their more advantaged peers, with the results finding:

  • 55% of the most-advantaged found it helpful in making contacts and networking compared to 42% of the least-advantaged
  • 55% of the most-advantaged found it helpful in inspiring them to go to university, compared to just 39% of the least-advantaged

The survey also found half of those living in the South East (45%) and London (49%) said that they completed two or more work experience placements, higher than those in the North of England (37%). In addition, Teach First found huge variations in the type of work experience the most and least advantaged were undertaking, with 27% of the most advantaged undertaking work experience in the professional services (i.e. engineering or architecture) compared to just 12% of the least advantaged; while 9% of the most advantaged had a work placement in law, compared to just 2% of the least advantaged.

While schools already have a duty to provide careers guidance, Teach First argues many struggle to do it well or coordinate across the whole school due to a lack of targeted training for school leaders and capacity in schools.

This is why in 2015 Teach First piloted a programme in schools serving low-income communities. The programme supports senior and middle leaders already in a school to evaluate, design and implement a strategy for careers and employability within their schools. This partnership successfully implemented a joined-up approach of delivering careers provision, which revolutionised the impact schools were having on their young people.

Teach First have therefore recommended the Government urgently release their careers strategy to address these issues. Support should be targeted at low-income communities and should include:

  • A comprehensively trained careers leader in every secondary school, to lead on developing a whole-school careers and employability strategy. This training should last a minimum of six days, spread out over a year
  • Senior leaders must support this work and all school leaders should undertake training to be equipped to play their role in supporting the delivery of careers provision in school
  • To enable teachers to have time away from school, the Government should invest £5.8 million ringfenced funding for supply teacher cover
  • Training for all other staff members to play their part in delivering good careers and employability learning across the curriculum
  • Among several training routes, a careers leadership apprenticeship route should be developed, as part of plans to develop other middle leadership apprenticeships

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”.


Notes to editor

For interview request, media enquiries or case study requests, contact the Teach First media team via press@teachfirst.org.uk or 0203 841 8483.

ComRes interviewed 2,015 18-25 year olds in England online between 18 May and 12 June 2017, including 506 current university students and 807 university graduates. Data were weighted by gender, age and region to be representative of this audience. Full data tables can be found on the ComRes website (www.comresglobal.com)

They have defined ‘advantaged’ young people as all who have at least one parent who attended a Russell Group university, and were never eligible for free school meals between the ages of 11 and 18. The ‘disadvantaged’ group was defined as those whose parent(s) did not attend university, and who were eligible for free school meals between the ages of 11 and 18.

About Teach First

We believe that disadvantage should not determine destiny. Our vision is that no child's educational success should be limited by their socio-economic background.

Our charity invests in the power of people to change the lives of children from low income backgrounds by:

· finding and developing great people to teach and lead in schools facing the greatest challenges

· increasing the attainment and aspirations of pupils and their access to higher education and employment; and

· building a movement of teachers, school leaders, social entrepreneurs, policy makers and business people who are committed to ending educational inequality.


Since 2003, Teach First has placed 10,000 leaders in schools serving low-income communities, reaching over 1 million young people.

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