Disadvantaged children need 'bespoke' approach to improve career … – Children & Young People Now

Megan Warren-Lister
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Providers offering careers guidance to children should offer tailored services to meet the needs of disadvantaged young people, including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and children in care, experts have told MPs.
Giving evidence at a meeting of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, Anthony Barnes, professional adviser at the Quality in Careers Consortium, highlighted the need to address the experiences of disadvantaged students when designing career programmes.
“It’s a really important area we need to do more on,” he said.
“The more disadvantaged students that we want to help may have no experience of apprenticeship or higher education, or their school history may have been traumatic.”
Jo Sykes, director at Co-op Academy Trust, added: “One size does not fit all in careers, you cannot roll out a blanket career programme, you have to have layered provision, so those students who are disadvantaged might have multiple meetings with the career advisors…it’s all about meeting their needs.”
MPs questioned experts about how pupils with (SEND) could be better prepared for careers considering barriers facing neurodivergent and disabled people in the workplace.
Sykes said that schools should be operating a “layered provision” of careers services to specifically target these students’ needs, urging providers to integrate the work of special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCos) into careers support.
“Careers has never properly been a priority that’s up there for the SENCos, so there may be work to be done about that, but you’ve got your SENCo teams and again it’s about upskilling all of that team, so that they’re aware of what the opportunities are,” she said.
Sykes added that pupils with SEND should be exposed to further education providers much earlier than their peers and suggested that engagement should begin in Year Nine, when pupils are 13 and 14 years old.
“It’s about that partnership and exposing them much earlier because of their needs, and fears,” Sykes said.
Meanwhile, Barnes called for an emphasis on the development of self-advocacy, explaining: “If you’ve got a disability, you often do have to work hard to persuade an employer that you’re capable.”
Empowering students is instrumental in “cultivating optimism and hope”, he added
Experts also called for a tailored approach to careers advice and support children in care, after the committee heard that 41 per cent of care leavers aged 19-21 were not in education employment or training, with Sykes again calling for “bespoke support.”
She said that providers should help these students to understand their individual skills, ideally starting in primary school.
“Until they know what their skills and qualities are, they don’t know what they can contribute to society, and it’s about unpicking that in a granular form, more so than you would do with other students,” Sykes added.
Witnesses also agreed that a key barrier for disadvantaged children was lack of knowledge or exposure to possible career paths.
“Children from disadvantaged backgrounds have narrower ranges of aspiration based on who they can see…we need to do more to broaden those horizons,” Nick Chambers, chief executive at Education and Employers said.
Joe Pardoe, head of professional development at the Big Education Academy Trust added that when devising careers programmes, professionals should utilise a “diverse range of role models” across sectors.
The debate comes days after the Department for Education announced details of a careers education programme aimed at primary school pupils.
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