Olly Newton, Executive Director, The Edge Foundation

Gatsby Benchmark 4 at the Centre 

Measurement, comparison, competition, quality assurance – these are all important parts of any system. But when they become the central driver of a system, of the education system, it runs the risk of that classic policy pitfall – hitting the target, missing the point.

The point of education isn’t just for young people to emerge with a clutch of certificates and nothing more. Powerful knowledge is of course essential, but alongside it parents, employers and young people themselves want them to have the broad range of skills and behaviours needed to interpret that knowledge, to shape their futures and become happy and productive adults.

That is why the Edge Foundation thinks that within the helpful structure provided by the Gatsby Benchmarks, there is none more important than benchmark 4 – integrating careers into the curriculum.

We have to move away from careers education being something separate, ‘something else’ that schools and colleges have to deal with, delivered at the far end of a long corridor.

Instead we need to place careers at the centre of curriculum development by bringing learning to life through real examples that help young people to see the relevance and context of what they are learning. This is at the heart of Edge Future Learning.

This will be a key theme of the forthcoming virtual international conference on Evolving Education and Careers, which is being led by renowned expert Deirdre Hughes.

Edge will be hosting a session at the event showcasing some of the amazing work of our partners to use careers in the curriculum to bring learning to life. Big Education will share their Real World Learning programme, which takes Year 10 and Year 12 students out of the classroom for one afternoon a week and places them in local businesses and community organisations to address and solve real challenges.

South East Regional College in Northern Ireland takes the project based learning approach into Further Education and places it at the heart of everything they do. It provides the context for learners to work on multidisciplinary, collaborative, industry facing projects, helping them build the skills, habits and knowledge to succeed in the workplace.

The Barbican Centre Trust was supported by Edge’s Grant Fund to encourage young people into careers in the creative industries. Their Creative Careers Challenge has given students from three London schools the opportunity to work on creative projects designed by teachers, local employers and creative practitioners, to develop skills and learn about career opportunities in the sector.

At Academies Enterprise Trust, the mission of the Multi Academy Trust is to support all children to lead a remarkable life. At schools like Firth Park Academy in Sheffield, they are supporting their teachers to develop exciting and engaging projects in partnership with local employers so that careers education becomes a central part of the classroom experience and a way to make learning relevant for young people.

As one of our US colleagues often jokingly says, students only put up their hands in school for two reasons – to ask for the toilet and to say ‘when am I ever going to need to use this’.

If we can’t answer the second question, then there’s little point continuing with the lesson.

Knowledge, skills and behaviours are all crucial to developing the rounded adults everyone wants to see and be. But we are never going to set all young people on the track to developing them if we just focus on written exams.

We need to work with employers and community organisations to use real examples and real people to bring the curriculum to life.

That way, rather than careers education being delivered at the end of a long corridor, it becomes an integrated part of every classroom.

Olly Newton, Executive Director, The Edge Foundation

Taking place on 20-22 October, book your place at the Evolving Education and Careers international conference to find out more about Edge’s work and hear from experts at Big Education, South East Regional College, Barbican Centre Trust and Academies Enterprise Trust .

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