A report by Pauline Wade, Caroline Bergeron, Karen White, David Teeman, David Sims and Palak Mehta, NFER
This report evaluates the Pathfinder pilot, a programme run that was across seven local authorities in 2010 to enable pupils to learn about career options available to them. The programme included workplace visits, in-school career insight talks with professionals from the world of work, trips to local universities, and one-off events such as career-themed drama performances.
The objectives of the Pathfinder pilot were to:
- Increase pupils’ awareness of career/work opportunities;
- Increase their understanding of the link between education, qualifications and work opportunities;
- Reduce gender-specific career/role stereotypes;
- Engage parents/carers in the process and so change their attitudes, perceptions and aspirations relating to their children’s education and career choices.
The authors of the report discuss existing literature on career-related learning at an early age, particularly highlighting Gottfredson’s work suggesting that children begin to eliminate their least-favoured career options between the ages of nine and 13, and that they begin to form stereotypes about occupations, including gendered roles, when they are around six to eight years old. These stereotypes can influence their ideas about the jobs that they might be able to do in the future.
The authors then suggest that timely interventions can have a positive impact on inhibiting stereotyped and self-limiting thinking long before major decisions have to be made.
The report collected data through a scoping study, pupil surveys, school questionnaires and case studies. A first ‘sweep’ of the data was done in the autumn, the second in the spring and then the third in the summer, comparing outcomes for pupils participating in the pilot with outcomes for pupils not participating.
The evaluation found various positive impacts on outcomes, particularly in closing the gap between more vulnerable pupils and their peers. It also encouraged engagement from others – such as employers – in the local community.
Key findings evidenced in the report:
- Pupils involved in the Pathfinder pilot showed increased awareness, knowledge and understanding of types of employment and pathways to get there
- The Pathfinder intervention was associated with an increase in other career-related learning activity in schools
- School staff considered that the Pathfinder assisted in broadening the horizons of pupils, increasing their confidence and resilience and encouraging greater realism in their future expectations;
- Pupils involved in the Pathfinder pilot showed increased understanding of the link between education, qualifications and careers and a more positive attitude towards school and education
- Pathfinder pupils showed a greater decrease in stereotypical thinking in relation to gender
In relation to the four aims, then, pupils’ awareness of career opportunities and their understanding of the links between education and work opportunities were increased, while their stereotypical thinking about jobs was reduced. The parental engagement, however, was less effective than anticipated and was highlighted as an area for improvement.
The authors conclude that this kind of career-related learning in primary schools has the potential to close the gap for disadvantaged pupils, to encourage schools to develop a strong work-related learning curriculum, and to give impetus to building strong local partnerships.