Careers and aspiration embedded at the heart of the KS2 curriculum

Written by: Sonita Alleyne | Published:
Careers inspiration: The Yes Programme

“Ideas” power our lives. Here’s one that galvanizes me: “Let us regularly embed careers education in lessons from primary years onwards.”

I was 16 when I had my only formal conversation about careers. The advisor at my comprehensive in East London noted I was clever and suggested I might like to work in banking. Not high-octane investment banking, but the cash desk in my local branch.

Most adults I talk to recount a similar tale. We may have embraced technological advances in schools but we have consistently failed to overhaul our approach to giving youngsters a picture of where their learning could take them.

The International Labour Organisaton (ILO) predicts unemployment for over 212 million people worldwide, with young people affected disproportionately. It is vital that we power up our approach to careers education.

Every parent wants their child to learn how to read and write and get a good set of qualifications. Giving children an understanding of what’s out there has got to be part of the mix. Parents are often not best placed to help their own children when it comes to discussing the full breadth of life’s possibilities.

We know our own industries, but the detail of even our close friends’ professions can be a mystery. In many deprived areas, there are some households where no one works at all and the school-to- work transition is even harder.

This seemingly immovable problem was why I founded the Yes Programme. My “lift pitch” would only last two floors: Short films that show children the connection between the exact KS2 topic they’re studying and its use in the real world, by real people. Aspiration and knowledge of careers regularly threaded into lessons. Work discovery in an appropriate manner at an earlier age.

When piloting to a year 6 class in a Colchester Primary, one film featured a product designer talking about materials and their properties. Some children did not know products were designed; they hadn’t made the connection between seeing objects around them and realising there were jobs in design.

Triggering that understanding at an early age can open up a new world of possibilities and purposeful engagement.

Over 500 schools have used this practical approach. It’s a defined bank of short films and lesson sheets, curated by curriculum experts that cover the core subjects in KS2. Imagine a maths lesson in “algebra”.

A class can get a glimpse into the world of a computer games developer and he’ll illustrate exactly how he uses algebra. Or an advertising executive can add bite to an English lesson on the subject of “using short sentences for effect”.

My goal is that no child in the UK ever asks, “Why am I learning this?” I’m proud to say that in schools using the Yes Programme the classroom question at the start of a new topic is “Tell us who uses this?” We are having an effect. We’ve had a few “yes moments”; girls wanting to be vets and engineers as a result of the films in the bank.

Schools are best placed to regularly thread career information through the curriculum from early years through to the last day of school. Giving children a balanced view of what’s out there and how it connects to their work in the classroom is critical.

So let’s be galvanized together. Great qualifications, excellent reading and writing skills and knowledge of the doors they might one day walk through are part of the mix that our modern education system has to deliver. After all, it’s hard to get somewhere in life if you’ve zero idea of what “life” looks like.

  • Sonita Alleyne OBE is the founder of the Yes Programme.

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