Primary Futures: connecting life and learning in UK primary education

By Anthony Mann, Elnaz T. Kashefpakdel (both Education and Employers) and Steve Iredale (National Association for Head Teachers)



Read the full paper here.


In this paper the authors discuss the impact, demand and implementation of employer engagement in primary education. They assess recent literature on the subject and find that while research into the impact of employer engagement activities on the learning and progression of children is limited, it suggests that employer engagement, if done correctly, can be positively associated with improved attainment, the development of non-cognitive skills demanded by twenty-first century employers and changed attitudes towards the world of work and the relationship between the classroom and the workplace.


An overview of employer engagement in primary education

The literature sheds light on the twofold purposes of employer engagement in primary education.  It can be understood as a tool for both enhancing pupil knowledge and skills and for providing new information and experiences to enhance understanding about jobs and careers commonly with an aim of influencing pupil attitudes and aspirations.  Through Primary Futures, schools have access to human voluntary resource supporting both objectives.

At one level, the employee volunteer can be seen as simply supplementing the work of teachers: providing access to extra resource to achieve core teaching objectives (e.g. reading and number skills).  At a second, engagement can be conceived as a resource which enables access to additional objectives: developing enterprise or employability skills, raising or broadening aspirations, challenging thinking about the point of education.  Across these areas, it makes a very significant difference that the human resource in question is someone bringing real-life, authentic experience of the workplace. When they engage with children, volunteers are routinely perceived as speaking from a vantage point of real authority: who better to testify how numeracy is used outside of the classroom than someone who earns a wage to apply it in a workplace?


Delivering employer engagement: Primary Futures and Inspiring the Future

The authors then go on to discuss the Primary Futures programme as a method of encouraging employers into primary education. The programme was designed to make it quick, easy and free for teaching staff in UK primary schools to connect with local employee volunteers. Delivered through a secure online match-making tool,, Primary Futures was designed to provide schools with easy access to individuals willing to provide free voluntary support across a range of areas, including:

  • providing first-hand insight into jobs and careers, with many thousands of volunteers across the country identifying themselves as being able to speak with specific experience of
    • being an Apprentice
    • running their own enterprise
    • using Mathematics or modern foreign languages at work
    • working in the fields of science and technology
  • being a potential reading or number partner, or
  • being willing to be considered as a school governor.

Primary Futures develops a shared language, enabling teaching staff to make coherent and achievable asks of employee volunteers.  Inspiring the Future has removed barriers preventing primary school access to community volunteers and schools have responded, with thousands registering to access a resource which can be used in multiple ways.  Demand from teachers is in keeping with limited and imperfect survey evidence which has pointed to high levels of interest across British primary schools in accessing such resource.


Read the full paper here.