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The Need for Excellent Careers Staff

Posted: 20th May 2014

It is a matter of concern that Universities Minister, David Willetts, has identified the level of competition among sixth-formers for medical courses as “one of the most dysfunctional features” of the education system.
His insistence that bright school leavers, particularly girls, should consider careers in engineering or science as a back up to avoid missing out on higher education places altogether is not new. It has been explored in depth. I would recommend he rereads the government report produced last December that outlines these reasons well. It explains why students do not choose the university courses and career paths that he is urging them to follow.

Yet surely all this does is reinforce the message from last September that three quarters of schools visited by Ofsted were not delivering adequate careers advice. Ofsted found that “very few” schools had the skills to provide careers guidance. Brampton College prides itself on the fact that our students receive excellent guidance regarding university admission, as quoted in our Inspection report. They are carefully and skilfully advised about appropriate courses and universities. This can only happen because we have expert careers advisors available at the College for one-to-one advice. During the summer we have a series of speakers coming into the College to give students an insight into many careers, including alternatives to medicine and the liberal arts degree that are now available.

The Aspires report concludes that the majority of 10-14 year olds do not aspire to science careers. In other words, students’ comparatively low aspirations to become scientists are not the result of finding science boring. It said efforts to broaden students’ aspirations, particularly in relation to STEM, need to begin in primary school. Currently most activities and interventions are targeted at secondary school students. Mr Willetts’ criticism of the trend to allow students to drop physics, which is not required for medicine degrees, at the age of 16, is unfair. Students and their families have had many of their ideas set before they get to 16. During our enrolment process it amazes me how many times parents and students tell us that they have been given little relevant careers advice and they have not had the opportunity to consider other options open to them. We feel this is very necessary to give access to careers information throughout a student’s time in College so they can consider all the options open to them.
The ASPIRES research found that most young people and their families have a relatively narrow view of where science can lead. The popular view, that science qualifications lead primarily to a job as either a scientist, science teacher or doctor, is contributing to young people seeing post-16 science qualifications as ‘not relevant for me’.
Our careers staff do a great job in promoting the message that ‘science keeps your options open’, opening doors to a wide range of careers at both graduate and technical levels, both in and beyond science. We still have great success at helping people follow a vocational path into medicine and dentistry science but we do so at the same time as explaining and promoting the idea that science qualifications can be valuable for propelling an individual into numerous careers and destinations. Colleges, like Brampton College, can do this because we have invested heavily in providing this resource to our students. Yet many schools lack the resources and removing careers services from them and making them available on line does not provide the ‘science capital’ students and their families need to make well informed decisions.

Read Brampton College’s Inspection reports noting our excellent Careers Service

27th May- TES article ‘Ministers ‘morally obliged’ to overhaul school careers guidance’. Study by the Association of Colleges.

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