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John Snell, Head Teacher at Welton Primary School, shares his thoughts and experiences around starting careers education at this young age group - and why he believes the earlier the better. 

It has always been fascinating to me why careers education for our young people often begins in earnest at secondary school. There are many young people who are clear about their future plans at this age.

However many are simply not aware of their career opportunities, and guidance may only support them so far.

My overarching belief is that career learning should begin much earlier, at primary age or even younger. What I am not necessarily advocating is a structural approach to delivering careers support at this age, which commits children to follow a particular path.

Rather, expanding our children’s view of the world around them and how they might consider being a part of it.

From my experience, many young people do have strong ambitions. Yet what is evident, is that they often only have limited inspirations to draw on, and so it is our duty as primary and early years practitioners to widen their aspirations and provide them with a broad and inspirational view of the world of work.

An organic approach

This shouldn’t necessarily be delivered simply through a careers day or week. The discussion and focus should be far more organic and intertwined in everyday teaching. Consider for example a maths lesson on area and perimeter.

It would not take much effort to ask the question, ‘who might need to use this skill in their day to day work?’

From this point on, part of the maths lesson has become an opportunity to embed careers education through discussion and application of the skill. Careers that might spring to mind: architects, swimming pool manufacturers, archaeologists, park rangers… The list goes on.

The beauty of this approach is that almost every piece of learning has a real-life purpose – and therefore makes it more accessible and meaningful to the learners.

From my experience, these nuggets of career learning can be enough to sow a seed in the imagination of a young person as they relate what they enjoy doing with a potential job in the future.

And it’s easy for teachers to deliver this without requiring a huge amount of pre thought or planning.

This is not to say that well planned and delivered career weeks or days are redundant. Far from it. It is these events that can really raise the profile of the world of work for children and in my school, it is a great opportunity to invite volunteers to talk with the children about what they do.

Themed career days

Through using the Primary Futures volunteer finder website, this is an easy process to establish. For greater focus we theme our volunteer days around a common purpose. From careers involving STEM subjects, careers in the local area to careers that are mainly based outdoors.

To have a nuclear submariner, an air traffic controller or expedition leader share their stories will make a big impression on many of our young people.

So, the approaches I’m advocating actually involve minimal effort yet they have a big impact on the lives of our young people.

Children see their time in school not in isolation, but part of something bigger. Their horizons are broadened and for many young people, this is the motivation they need to succeed.