Key Stage 2 career-related learning

Last week, I attended the National Key Stage 2 career-related learning conference.

The conference was part of the recent pathfinder pilot project which has seen a number of career-related learning initiatives taking place in primary schools around the country.

Career-related learning for this age group is not about encouraging children to decide what they want to be when they grow up. It’s about inspiring them to explore the world around them, to understand what’s going on in the community and to prepare them for life.

It’s often said that all young people should be encouraged to believe that they can do anything and be anyone. Yet, by the time we start to talk to young people about careers in secondary school, they and their influencers have often already decided what they can or cannot do.

This means that they never get the chance or have the motivation to explore careers that they deem out of their reach.

The purpose of the pathfinder project has been to:

  • encourage exploration
  • inspire and motivate children to raise their aspirations
  • help them develop their knowledge and understanding of the world.

At the conference, there were a series of workshops that offered examples of where primary schools have incorporated career-related learning into their work.

One of the workshops was led by Alyson Heath, headteacher of St Mary’s School in Pulborough. Along with deputy head Sam Copus and SENCo Penny Pavey, Alyson presented details of the school’s highly successful enterprise project.

As part of the project, pupils have started up a ‘business’ growing and selling fruit and vegetables. All the pupils involved have job roles in finance, production, marketing or purchasing.

They have had to develop business cases to present to the board (the school’s senior leadership team) to requests loans to buy equipment and supplies.

The school, which was graded Outstanding by Ofsted, has seen how the project has motivated pupils who previously hadn’t been as engaged in learning.

In addition to learning about various job roles and interacting with the local community (they have held sales of their goods at local supermarkets and events), the pupils made enough profit to pay for their summer ball and make a donation to their partner school in Africa.

Hearing about how young children are being so motivated by ‘real-life’ experiences is great.

Recently I’ve visited a number of primary schools as part of our research for our new Key Stage 2 product, Paws in Jobland. In Years 5 and 6, pupils have a real thirst for finding things out, so it seems a great time to be encouraging them to find out about the world around them.

One of the things that surprised me the most is the instant link that a lot of pupils make between what they do in school and the jobs adults do. Beth, a Year 5 pupils said:

“A web designer…that would be a good job for Thomas because he’s really good with computers in class.”

Introducing the world of work to this younger age group has other benefits. At one school that I visited recently, the head was explaining that a lot of the parents do not have jobs, so the children often have limited exposure to a range of people in different occupations.  This reduces their potential for inspiration.

At another school, I spoke to nine-year-old Ryan, who was finding out about what a mechanic does. He was a little surprised when a female mechanic appeared on-screen:

“It’s a bit weird that there’s a girl fixing a car. I didn’t know that girls could be mechanics.”

This presents a great opportunity to challenge stereotypes at a young age.

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