I am not for career guidance in primary schools. It is far too early. What I am for is widening pupils' horizons. Many of the children I currently teach have no idea of the range of different ways in which adults can earn their living. They shouldn't be confined to seeing the future with tunnel vision, knowing only what their parents and other adult members of their family do for a living, or what work happens to be available where they live. Girls in particular need to have an idea of what the future could hold for them. I am for children having a wide variety of role models - and at least some heroines and heroes - so that they can not only have high expectations of themselves, but also the right to dream.
Widening pupils' horizons is what career-related learning in primary schools (to use the proper terminology) is intended to do. I reproduce a slide from a presentation I attended yesterday:
What do we mean by CRL in primary?
“Career-related learning is not about asking eight-year olds what they want to do in the future - children must be allowed their childhood… It is work that builds on children’s growing awareness of themselves and the world of work, and weaves what they know into useful learning for now and later” Watts (2002)
Career development is a maturation process that begins very early in life. It refers to the ongoing process of a person managing their life, learning and work. It involves developing skills and knowledge that not only equip children for the next stage of their lives, but also enables them to plan and make informed decisions about education, training and career choices.
We have used the phrase 'career-related learning' as it includes early childhood activities in primary schools designed to give children from an early age a wide range of experiences of, and exposure to education, transitions and the world of work. It also aligns with the terminology used in existing literature and guidelines and was confirmed through interviews with schools involved in this research.
Footnote: The concept of careers in the primary school phase typically provokes a cautious reaction. Terms such as ‘careers learning’, ‘careers education’ or ‘careers lessons’ are often conflated with careers guidance which is often understood to be focused on careers choice. Many parents and teachers have concerns about directing children towards a particular career or job at a time when their aspirations should, rightly, be tentative
The opening slide of this presentation is also worth quoting:
Early years matter
Concept of self
- Age 6-8: Children grasp the concept of a set of behaviours belonging to each s€x and therefore begin seeing jobs and future pathways as intrinsically gendered.
- Age 9-13: Children begin to see their social value based on perceptions of social class and intelligence. By this age children abandon ‘fantasy’ careers associated with the very young and start to become more aware of potential constraints on their futures.
- By the age of eight, girls and boys routinely develop gendered ideas about jobs and careers, with long term implications.
- Children come into schools with assumptions which have emerged out of their own day to day experiences: experiences which are routinely shaped by ideas surrounding gender, ethnicity and social class.
- You can’t be what you can’t see
- Impact of structural factors such as family and the immediate surroundings on who children want to become