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The hardest profession to take in life is being a girl child

But should we start talking about the world of work at primary school or is this far too early to be meaningful or appropriate?

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Career education in primary school is not the invention of a Labour politician. It has existed in various forms for decades in a number of countries including England. In 2010, the Department for Education DfE published an evaluation of career education in primary schools which found that young people who participated in career education increased their knowledge about the types of work and the pathways that could be followed to get there.

It also found some evidence that pupils were more confident about their ability to achieve their aspirations. Careers can work in primary school School-based careers work has been found to have a number of positive impactsincluding supporting increased attainment and engagement with school.

The evaluation also identified a decrease in stereotypical thinking about careers from pupils who participated. This recent evidence in English schools suggests that career education can work in primary schools.

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This kind of exploratory learning about the world and your place within it can sit very easily within the context of primary education. Aspirations start early A key rationale for starting career education early is drawn from evidence which shows that young people form their aspirations and ideas about careers long before they are ready to join the labour market.

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Research by American psychologists Ashton Trice and Kimberly Rush found that four-year olds typically articulated a strong gender bias in their thinking about jobs, with boys tending to express interest in typically male occupations and girls in typically female occupations.

In the 1980s, US psychologist Linda Gottfredson theorised about the process of identity formation, arguing that young people typically go through a series of age-related stages during which they, often unconsciously, shape their occupational aspirations in relation to social expectations.

Balancing career and family

She argued that much of this process has occurred before young people reach secondary school. Inspiring the next generation. The rationale for starting career education in primary school is therefore strong. This is not new to scholars of career education and guidance who typically pronounce that career education should start early and be in place well before young people have to make any decisions with lifetime impacts — such as GCSE choices at age 13.

There has been little systematic work looking at the age at which primary career education should start.

But there are a number of studies that provide some insights. One study found that a programme aimed at Year 4 eight and nine-year-old children fitted well into the primary curriculum and that the children who participated in it were able to remember much of significance five months later.

  • This is not new to scholars of career education and guidance who typically pronounce that career education should start early and be in place well before young people have to make any decisions with lifetime impacts — such as GCSE choices at age 13;
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Primary career education has a long history, albeit one that is often interrupted by frequent lurches in policy. In general, educators have developed primary career education programmes from the age of seven and where they have been evaluated this has been found to be effective and to fit well into the wider primary curriculum.