Children as young as five in England will be urged to think about careers

Primary school pupils as young as five and six are to be the target of a new careers programme in England encouraging them to think about future jobs early, the government has announced.

Children in years 1, 2 and 3, between the ages of five and eight, will be given age-appropriate lessons designed to introduce them to different careers, training and skills, and inspire them about the world of work.

The £2.6m initiative will be rolled out across 55 education investment areas, or “cold spots”, where school outcomes are the weakest, targeting 600,000 pupils in more than 2,200 primary schools.

Pupils will also get the chance to meet employers and “role models” from a range of industries, to try to raise aspirations and link learning to future jobs and careers they may pursue.

They will be introduced to careers in the green economy, technology, engineering, construction, Stem, creative industries, aerospace, hospitality and healthcare.

The Department for Education (DfE) said evidence had shown that children start to form ideas about their future when they start primary school, yet currently most careers guidance takes place in secondary schools.

In addition to the primary careers programme, the DfE also gave details of a new requirement for secondary school pupils to be given greater exposure to providers of technical education, so they know about alternatives to a traditional academic route.

Under legislation that came into force at the start of the year, schools will be required to give all pupils in years 8 to 13 at least six opportunities to meet a range of providers of technical education, including apprenticeships, T-levels and higher technical qualifications.

Robert Halfon, the minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education, said good careers advice was vital to open up opportunities for young people from all backgrounds and deliver the future workforce the country needs.

“The changes we are making to boost our careers programme will raise ambitions from an early age for thousands of children in primary schools across the country, while providing opportunities to unlock talent, think about skills, engage with employers and discover different workplaces.”

Oli de Botton, a former headteacher who is chief executive of the Careers & Enterprise Company, which will coordinate the primary careers programme, said: “Our new primary programme will bring careers inspiration to children early in their school life by connecting them with role models and showing them how different subjects relate to jobs.”

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The education charity Teach First will help train primary school teachers in disadvantaged areas where the scheme will be delivered.

Dominic Wyse, a professor of early childhood and primary education at University College London’s Institute of Education, said the initiative’s success would depend on how well it is delivered. “It does worry me it could be terribly dull. There’s a real question – will it motivate children, will it motivate teachers, and is it the sort of push that’s needed right now?”

Sarah Hannafin, a senior policy adviser for the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), whose members mainly work in the primary sector, said it was right that careers education should not be left to secondary schools.

However, she added: “All schools must be provided with the resources they need to provide high-quality careers education but current provision remains underfunded. Schools will find it challenging to meet increasing requirements and expectations with no additional resources to deliver them.”

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