Starting Early: report reveals how learning about work at primary-age has positive impact on children’s futures

Meeting diverse role models from the world of work motivates primary-age children, boosts attainment, tackles stereotypes and shows the real-world relevance of subject-learning, finds a new report, Starting Early: Building the foundations for success.

Starting Early report cover with images of children and volunteersKey findings

Teachers and head-teachers recognise that activities with external volunteers in schools have a range of positive outcomes. Evidence shows meeting volunteers from the world of work:

  • Improves motivation in maths, science and English and increases children’s future aspirations and desire to learn
  • Benefits attendance and attainment, especially for disadvantaged children
  • Reduces stereotypes, enhances confidence, and fosters a positive attitude towards school
  • Brings gains in self-efficacy, persistence, and creativity

Meeting relatable role models further boosts the impact of encounters, with children reporting greater influence when they can identify with volunteers.

Why start at primary?

Aspirations about education and work are formed early in life, with children as young as five having stereotypical views about the jobs people do, based on their gender, ethnicity, and social background.

Career aspirations are also surprisingly persistent over time, changing little from primary-age to 17-18.

Giving children access to role models from the world of work at primary age helps counter this. With an emphasis on diversity, exploration, and making learning fun, these activities help enhance the curriculum and show its relevance to children’s futures.

Interactions with the wider world offer schools a way to introduce diverse experiences to children, especially those with fewer chance encounters in their day-to-day life, and to use these experiences to support children’s learning and development.

Watch an interview with report author Chris Percy:

Untapped potential and the power of interactive virtual activities

Supported by teachers and head-teachers, the report calls for a more systematic approach to bringing in more external role models and introducing more career-related learning in primary schools.

Analysis of Primary Futures, a service run by Education and Employers connecting schools with volunteers from the workplace, demonstrates the effectiveness of interventions.

Primary Futures’ new interactive virtual sessions offer increased flexibility to teachers, and enable children to interact with more diverse volunteers, not limited by local geography.

Looking ahead, the report advocates a blended model for schools, connecting children with a diverse range of people outside their day-to-day communities through remote activities, together with events closer to home.

Find out about virtual sessions

Report overview

Drawing on research from 2014-2021, surveys of over 1,000 teachers and 10,000 children, Starting Earlycomprises in-depth analysis, case study insights and qualitative discussions, covering:

  1. The policy history of career-related learning at primary school
  2. The evidence of interventions at an international and local level
  3. Best practice guidelines for maximising the impact of activities, together with new analysis comparing remote and in-person sessions, and at what age activities could start

The report has been welcomed by organisations across the education sector, including representatives from the Commons Education Select Committee; National Literacy Trust; Chartered College of Teaching; National Association of Headteachers; and Careers and Enterprise Company.

Find out more