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Carol Davenport

18 June 2024, 1:53 UTC Share

Careers related learning in primary schools

To tackle career limiting decisions and stereotyping amongst children and young people, CAPE Collaboration Fund awardee Carol Davenport worked with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership. Together they developed a policy briefing aiming to influence education policy to support young people to make appropriately informed career choices.

As an academic, I’m very conscious that the research I do could be used to influence policy. However, I’m also conscious that dissemination to policy makers is something which I’m not very experienced in.  So when the opportunity came along to work with a policy maker on a small research project through CAPE Collaboration Fund I decided that I’d apply.

The policy partner I chose to work with was the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP). My team and I had worked with the Education team at NELEP previously on a careers project. So we felt that we had a good working relationship already.

The project that we developed was ‘Career-related learning in Primary Schools’ and the intention was to use a national teacher survey company (Teacher Tapp) to ask primary school teachers across England about what sort of career activities they were doing in their school. This fit well with my research interests, and with the work that the NELEP had been leading around a pilot project on career benchmarks for primary schools.

The project team (myself and Annie Padwick from Northumbria University, Matt Joyce and Phil Graham from NELEP) got together to decide on the survey questions.  Having the NELEP insight into how they might use the findings from the research was really helpful and helped us to shape the questions we would ask teachers.

Over 2000 primary teachers answered the questions and Teacher Tapp provided the responses broken down by region, socioeconomic background of the school, and experience of the teachers. Annie and I then analysed the data in more detail and shared our findings with Matt and Phil.

Career Related Learning (CRL) learning in primary schools and assessing what tools and frameworks would be useful to teachers to implement CRL more widely in schools. This information would enable organisations to better engage with conversations about CRL in primary schools at a national level. Following discussion, we then finalised what we felt the key points were and worked together to create the final report.

Our findings from the research were:

  • there is a need for, and willingness to deliver, career-related learning among teachers in primary schools
  • there are several challenges primary school teachers face in delivering career-related learning. Research has shown that before the age of eight, many children have already made career limiting decisions based on stereotypes, which over time become fixed.
  • solutions to these challenges exist and have been trialled successfully in the North East.

The project report outlined how existing frameworks can support the embedding of CRL in primary schools, alongside our recommendations for future policy and guidance in CRL in English primary schools.

The research project also looked at the influence of school deprivation and geographical location on the type of CRL learning offered in primary schools. We found that the CRL provision varied depending on the type of school. Primary teachers in the most and least deprived schools were doing the most in terms of CRL activities listed, however, primary teachers within the least deprived schools more commonly ‘had parents in to talk about their jobs’, while schools within the most deprived quartile more commonly reported to have external visits from employers.

To disseminate the findings to other policy makers, we worked with the press team from Northumbria and NELEP. One of the things that I have learnt from this is that policy organisations (such as the NELEP) have a clear pathway for sign off and the time required for that needs to be taken into account when planning on dissemination.

The report has been shared widely with individuals and organisations who have an interest in careers and primary education.  We’re also working on two infographic summaries of the recommendations to share with teachers and policy makers because we recognise that these groups may not have time to read the full report

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