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Careers capital

Published: 16 July 2020

Hearing about STEM careers whilst at primary school gives a valuable real-world context to learning and helps pupils to build their science capital. Developing careers awareness is one of the priority areas for the Trust and partnerships are asked to include careers events within their enrichment activities so that pupils can develop their physics identity and see where physics can take them.

A recent report published by LKMco and Founders4Schools argues for careers education to start as soon as young children begin their education, and should build cumulatively throughout their time in school, helping them broaden their horizons and learn about possible future pathways. Often, a young person is making career limiting decisions by aged 10 which they solidify by aged 14. Careers interventions at primary school can make a real difference to children’s ideas and aspirations for the future which can inspire their education approach and choices.

North East Ambition is supporting schools and colleges in the North East of England to implement, achieve and maintain the Good Career Guidance benchmarks by 2024. As part of this programme, the North East Ambition Primary Pilot is also working with 70 primary schools in the region – to explore how careers guidance can be embedded at primary school level.

Matt Joyce, Regional Lead for North East Ambition, said: “In order to support our young people to understand the realities of the workplace, the expectations of employers and the opportunities open to them, it’s vital that we connect education and employment at every opportunity.

“We want to support children to be ambitious from the earliest possible age and start challenging any limiting beliefs they have about themselves, based on their gender or socio-economic background.”

Newsham Primary School – hub for the Ogden Blyth Valley Partnership – is taking part in the primary pilot and has introduced careers across the curriculum. David Gregory, science and STEM lead at the school and partnership co-ordinator, explains more.

“Since being involved in this programme, it has really helped to focus our school’s collective mind on how a graduated approach to careers education could have a significant impact on the lives of our children and families. Working in an area of socio-economic deprivation, we have always been keen to find ways to raise awareness and increase levels of aspiration. In a short space of time, on a relatively small scale, we have seen some incredibly positive results. We are eager to develop our careers education offer further in an effort to reach as many people in our school community as possible.

Children visiting a careers event

“When the children were in school, I was using the ‘STEM person of the week’ resource from nustem to generate a 10-minute discussion on a Friday afternoon about the types of careers available. The children found this fascinating and it was amazing to see a room full of children so enthused about careers that they previously didn’t even know existed. This time of the week quickly became one that the children couldn’t wait for and I am confident that as this is rolled out more systematically throughout school, and the wider partnership, it will leave a lasting impression on our children.

“I also use the nustem primary science and maths career tool as well for some great, simple career/job descriptions.

“Linking careers to the curriculum in primary is actually relatively straight forward – probably more so than when they move up to secondary. Within my school, I’ve been introducing every science lesson by identifying the field of science we are about to explore (physics, chemistry, etc.) and then attaching a specific career role that links to the lesson’s focus. For example, when studying space in Year 2 – the children have identified themselves as astro-physicists, cosmologists or engineers. I have then attempted to attach these roles to real-life people – nustem and ASE resources really help with this.

students working on a science investigation

“We have made links to TV programs, websites and local industry. This approach has helped boost the science/cultural capital of our children and their families; many children have gone home and talked about wanting to be an ‘electrical engineer’, for example, parents have then come back to me to talk about how this can be encouraged. We are looking at ways of developing this family engagement further.

“As with everything, this approach won’t reach every child or every family, but it will reach more people than you realise. I have just been trialling it in my class but when it becomes a systematic approach throughout school, and subsequently in all other partnership schools, the impact could be huge.

“As a school, we are planning to create a tracking tool which will follow the children’s understanding of the careers available to them. We will start by gathering opinions on careers and jobs in each year group at the beginning of the next academic year when input on careers has been limited, we will then follow this up with subsequent pupil questionnaires each term as they progress through school. Hopefully, this will show a growing understanding over time.

a child on a visit to a workplace wearing hi vis and hard hat

Children on a visit to a workplace in hi vis jackets

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