Press release

Schools should be doing more to prepare young people for the world of work

The nation's economic prosperity is at risk because the majority of England’s schools fail to prioritise enterprise education and work-related learning.

The survey, ‘Getting ready for work’ finds that only 4 of the 40 secondary schools visited by inspectors were demonstrating an effective approach to this aspect of the curriculum, despite the government’s commitment to take forward the recommendations made in Lord Young’s 2014 report into these matters.

The survey also finds that poor coordination between schools and businesses and the absence of any overarching government strategy are leaving large numbers of young people – particularly the disadvantaged – unprepared for the world of work.

Enterprise education involves teaching pupils the knowledge they will need to be future employees and potential employers by providing opportunities to raise their awareness of problems and solutions in the context of business and enterprise. It also involves teaching young people to make informed choices about their finances.

Commenting on the report findings, HM Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said:

The question of how well our school system is preparing young people for the world of work has never been more important. The future success and prosperity of the UK in a post-Brexit world will increasingly depend on our ability to harness home-grown talent and to encourage the creativity and innovation of our young people. That will mean making sure that pupils from all backgrounds have access to an education that prepares them well for the next stage of their lives, be that higher education, entering employment or setting up their own business.

The career choices that young people make can be informed by the practical experience they gain at school. It is really important that schools are providing the right opportunities, working effectively with local businesses to offer their pupils the chance to understand how businesses work. This is even more important for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

One of the ways we can bridge the social divide is by ensuring all young people have equal access to work-related knowledge that will guide and prepare them for the next stage of their lives.

Key findings from the report include:

  • the extent to which schools used their curriculum to prepare pupils for the world of work was largely dependent on whether school leaders considered it to be a priority. Schools often cited pressures on finance and curriculum time as reasons for not prioritising enterprise education. In the schools where there was limited focus on enterprise learning, school leaders told inspectors that they see themselves as accountable for outcomes narrowly focused on examinations. This was particularly acute in the schools visited that had most recently been judged as requires improvement or inadequate.

  • even where schools were delivering enterprise education, it was often unclear whether this was having any impact on pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills. Pupils who spoke to inspectors during the visits frequently said that their experience tended to be a series of one-off events that lacked any sense of progression. In 32 of the 40 schools visited, there was no monitoring to check whether opportunities to gain enterprise knowledge or employability skills were taken up by different groups of pupils.

  • opportunities for pupils to take part in meaningful work-related learning or work experience were limited at key stage 4. Some schools offered work experience to a small group of pupils, often selected on the basis of not achieving well in academic subjects. Where this was the case, school leaders frequently suggested that arranging work experience for all pupils was too time-consuming and impractical to administer on a large scale.

  • business involvement in some of the schools visited relied too heavily on the personal networks of teachers and parents. Some arose solely because the pupils’ parents were well connected, potentially resulting in disadvantaged pupils missing out.

  • a lack of coordination across local areas has created an environment for schools and businesses that business leaders described as ‘chaotic’. Business leaders consulted for this report raised concerns that there is little coherence to provision and a lack of strategy by government, business organisations or individual schools.

  • schools appear to be more likely to promote apprenticeships than in recent years, but parents and pupils are concerned about the quality and reputation of apprenticeships. Some parents and pupils were concerned about the current state of the apprenticeship market and were reluctant to pursue a route that they thought would narrow their options in the future.

Notes to editors

Getting ready for work thematic survey report. The report examines how secondary schools are preparing young people for the world of work through enterprise education and work-related learning. It looks at how schools are working with local businesses and at the way apprenticeship programmes are promoted in schools.

Enterprise for all report by Lord Young June 2014

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