New survey shows for the first time a link between engagement with the world of work and attainment in primary schools.

A survey published today by the Education and Employers Charity found that 90% of primary school teachers thought that engaging children with employers/employees and the world of work has an impact on their academic achievement.

The importance of role models for children in primary schools, especially in improving social mobility is only just now being widely acknowledged and this survey is the first study to look at the issue. However, it is supported by other research in the field including the King’s College London / University College London Aspires project and in the United States.

Findings included:

  • At least 90% of teachers across the UK thought it had an impact but the figure rose to 97.4% in the West Midlands and 95.1% in Yorkshire and Humber.
  • In schools with more than the national average of pupils receiving free school meals (commonly used as an indicator of disadvantage), girls are more likely to experience positive impacts from engagement with employers/employees and the world of work than boys, teachers believe.
  • Overall, primary school teachers thought that girls are nearly 50% more likely to receive positive impacts than boys.

Our Redraw the Balance film, produced pro-bono by MullenLowe last year and which has been viewed over 33 million times worldwide, highlights gender stereotyping by children from as young as five years old, and how volunteers from the world of work going into primary schools to chat to children can help to combat this.

Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills, OECD, commenting on the survey said:

“The OECD’s international work consistently shows that young children are full of enthusiasm for learning, but as they get older, too often they struggle to see the point of what they are learning and how it relates to their future and a result their educational attainment drops. This is particularly a concern for children from disadvantaged backgrounds who lack successful role models from the world of work.

“Giving primary school aged children the chance to meet people from the world of work can help them to understand the relevance of subjects they are studying – and in so doing improve motivation and attainment. All children, regardless of their social background, where they live or the jobs their parents do, should have the same chance to meet people doing a wide range of jobs to help them understand the range of opportunities open to them – just as is the norm for children who are from affluent backgrounds. It is something governments and policy makers across the world should give more consideration to.”

The president of the National Association of Head Teachers, the professional body for over 29,000 school leaders, Anne Lyons, is calling on the government to give much greater priority to primary schools to ensure all children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, get the chance to meet a wide range of volunteers from the world of work. Ms Lyons believes this raises and broadens aspirations, improves academic attainment and is an important driver of social mobility. In response to the findings of the survey she said:

“NAHT has long campaigned for primary age children to have access to the world of work. What’s important is that these experiences demonstrate the amazing range of opportunities all young people can carve out for themselves if they can find a passion to call their own at school and learn to live and work in harmony with their fellow pupils. Primary Futures gives children that opportunity and it’s fantastic to see it endorsed by such an important body as the OECD and for its work to be strongly backed up by this new data. The NAHT wants any new government to ensure that all primary school pupils, regardless of where they live in the country, get the same chance to meet a wide range of people from the world of work who do a wide range of jobs – if we want to raise and broaden aspirations and improve social mobility this is vital.

“We must also value a broad range of subjects in the school day and praise the schools that find time in the curriculum to offer opportunities like Primary Futures

Dr Elnaz Kashefpakdel, Head of Research, Education and Employers, said: Children start to rule out career options from an early age. Girls and boys often hold stereotypical views about male and female careers at the age of 7. Our research has shown that 78.9% of primary school teachers surveyed thought that volunteers from the world of work coming into schools can help challenge the stereotypes that children have around the jobs that people do and the subjects they study by gender.”

Professor Louise Archer, University College London Institute of Education, said: “Research conducted by the Aspires/Aspires2 project with over 30,000 school children in England aged 10-16 showed that despite enjoying science, only a very small proportion of students, around 15%, aspire to become a scientist. This perception, that science is interesting – but not a job ‘for me’, is entrenched by the end of primary school, underlining the importance of starting early with interventions aimed at broadening students’ views of where science can lead and what a ‘science job’ entails.”

With this new research confirming the positive relationship between employer engagement in primary schools and attainment levels, now is the time to be a part of the movement for change. Primary schools and volunteers interested in being a part of Primary Futures can sign up on our website to help children make the important link between their learning and their futures and ultimately change lives.

See the full headline stats here.

Read ‘Primary Futures: Connecting Life and Learning in UK Primary Education’.

For work from our research team head to our research section.