From education to employment

Speakers for Schools Report – Sector Response

students stood in corridor

A report by Speakers for Schools has revealed barriers faced by disadvantaged youth in accessing top universities, speakers underscored the critical role of work experience and enrichment activities. These factors, highlighted by the report, are identified as significant obstacles preventing less affluent students from securing placements at prestigious institutions.

Sector Response

Sarah Hannafin, head of policy at school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

 “Work-related learning at secondary age is crucial to help pupils to think about their future, while providing them with a valuable taste of the world of work.

“However, despite support for careers education from school leaders, the government removed the requirement to provide work experience and cut the funding schools used to have for this. Schools no longer have the dedicated staff or resources to set up work experience placements for students. The success of bringing this requirement back would also depend heavily on a commitment from businesses and employers to host students on work experience.

“All schools must be provided with the resources they need to provide high quality careers education. Broader careers education, linked to raising aspirations, should begin at primary school by helping pupils to understand how working hard at school can bring fantastic opportunities in later life, offering them an insight into different careers.”

Kevin Gilmartin, Post-16 Specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“We agree with Speakers for Schools about the importance of high-quality work experience and enrichment activities. The problem is that schools and colleges are poorly funded and under pressure on many fronts. They often lack the time, staffing and resources needed for many things including organising and providing these opportunities. More investment is urgently required to support this provision as well as for careers guidance and advice.

“The use of personal statements in university applications is also unhelpful as it creates the perception that work experience and enrichment activities are an important requirement, thereby creating a barrier to disadvantaged students who may have less opportunities in this regard. We are aware that Ucas is reviewing this system and we support any reform which removes such barriers.”

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