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How Everyone in Secondary School can Contribute Towards Careers Education

Careers education is a whole-school responsibility – so Liz Painter has some short and long term suggestions for ways to contribute, whatever your role…

  • How Everyone in Secondary School can Contribute Towards Careers Education

If you are a… form tutor


Talk about all the different jobs you have done. Hearing stories about work can be inspirational to students. Ask students to share their career aspirations and listen to their responses; research shows that talking to young people can help them to create multiple stories about their possible future.

Long term

Plan a careers wall display for the form room. For example, students can decorate both sides of a cut-out ‘gingerbread’ person with their skills, strengths, hobbies and job ideas.

It’s important that young people realise they don’t need to commit to their occupation ideas; encourage them to research other jobs linked to an area they are interested in.

After a few months or a year revisit the ideas from the initial form group discussion; how are their career aspirations changing? How are they exploring these ideas?

For older students, how are they moving towards these goals, for example, talking to people in that occupation, gaining work experience?

If you are a… subject teacher


Talk to the class about jobs you have had, linked to your subject. Not got anything relevant?

Think about part-time roles you may have had when still in education – you’ll be able to draw out important employability skills such as time keeping, following instructions, working as part of a team, problem solving.

Show how these skills are relevant to the activity you are doing in that lesson. Can you link tomorrow’s lesson to a real-life situation – show a video clip of someone talking about their job?

Long term

Offer to add career-related videos into the lesson resources for a unit of work for your department.

Students are more likely to respond to career stories if they are direct from the horse’s mouth; invite a former student, parent or any relevant contact you have to come into a lesson and speak to the young people about how the subject relates to their job (this can be really effective if you can link it to the topic being taught).

If you are a… curriculum leader


Look at the career resources on websites that support your subject or related industry sector. There are some amazing free activities available from a huge variety of websites, so be creative with your search.

Examples include

Long term

Plan for most topics in each Key Stage to have at least one career related learning activity. This could be as simple as inserting a video case study, setting a job research homework, having a regular visitor or developing a careers activity linked to a topic.

Skills Development Scotland is a good place to start looking for resources.

If you are a… careers education teacher


Check how the Career Development Institute’s (CDI) framework maps against your schemes of work.

Long term

Consider reviewing the lesson content – do you need to tweak or develop an existing scheme? Some of the suggested learning outcomes from the CDI framework may be met in PSHE.

Do you need time to review the schemes with the PSHE co-ordinator? If non-specialist teachers deliver the lessons do you need top-up CPD sessions to ensure smooth delivery?

If you are a… careers leader


If you haven’t already, book onto a Careers Leaders training course.

Again, if you haven’t already done this, arrange a meeting with your Enterprise Coordinator and Enterprise Advisor to discuss how they can support your school.

Download the Gatsby benchmarks toolkit. It has great examples of good practice and top tips for each of the eight benchmarks.

Long term

Read The Careers Leader Handbook (Andrews and Hooley, 2018, Trotman) and strategically review the careers provision in your school.

The Compass audit tool is useful, but how are you recording, monitoring and evaluating the events and activities that students are involved with?

Events – for example, careers fairs and assemblies – should be meaningful. What plans are there to ‘bookend’ these activities, for example, with preparation and review time scheduled in tutor group sessions, or questions card prompts given to students during an event?

For each activity, ask yourself, how will the student move forward with their career education learning?

If you are a… headteacher


Ensure your Careers Leader has a copy of The Careers Leader Handbook (Andrews and Hooley, 2018, Trotman) and has booked onto a Careers Leaders training course.

Research shows that alumni are an underused yet hugely influential source. Does the school keep contact and occupation/higher education details for past students? What measures are in place for staff to make best use of this resource?

Long term

Do all staff understand the Gatsby benchmarks? Perhaps it’s time for an update in a staff meeting. Consider having a careers education target in teacher’s performance management for the next academic year.

Schools should inform parents of the careers education provision. Is the website up to date and is news shared on social media or via email? This could be a good way to recruit employers to come into school, as parents can be an invaluable resource.

...And something for everyone

We need to prepare our students to thrive in a world of change. A school’s careers education programme should:

  • raise awareness of the range of opportunities available;
  • foster a young person’s aspirations and;
  • give a student agency to explore their ideas and skills.

Liz Painter is an experienced science teacher, STEM lead and is currently studying for a master’s degree in Careers Education and Coaching at the University of Derby. She teaches at Sandbach High School and Sixth Form College.

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