Choices, choices, choices, there are so many choices available to school leavers which is great on the one hand, however many young people are becoming increasingly confused by them and they stop in their tracks like a rabbit in headlights when you put them on the spot and ask, “What are your plans for next year?”
I liken it to choosing an energy supplier. I know I could a get a better deal if I shopped around and did my research, but it all seems rather confusing and I don’t really have the time, so I stick to what I know and sign up for another year.
Many Year 11 pupils do this every year, they choose the easy option of continuing onto their school sixth form or following their mates onto college, often choosing subjects they haven’t really researched. Then come October they wake up and realise this isn’t what they want, but it’s too late to change and they are stuck on a course studying a subject they are not enjoying.
"I stress how important it is to have a passion for a subject when it comes to A-levels and BTECs, and if the passion isn’t there the chances of success are reduced."
So in September this year, I made a concerted effort to ensure I got the message across to our Year 11 cohort and their parents about the need to research their options in order to make informed choices. I also stressed the importance of having a backup plan or a Plan B, as I had dealt with a large number of pupils on GCSE results day who hadn’t considered the question, ‘what if I don’t get the grades’?
I’m delighted to report that the message is starting to get through and I’ve had pupils talking to me about their Plan B. The number of pupils attending college open days has also increased and parents are also more engaged which is extremely important. On many occasions a pupil has said, “My mum wants me to study…” and I find myself having to diplomatically ask if they also want to study this particular subject.
When we hit 2019 the real work starts and I will be working with those pupils who fall into the category, ‘haven’t got a clue’, and there will still be quite a few of those despite my best efforts. Resources have been cut and I have one day a week to focus on careers education alongside my business teaching, so I need to make sure I have a clear plan too.
Delivering the same message to individual pupils is time consuming, so small group meetings will be the way forward as the pupils in this category all have similar dilemmas about their next steps.
I’ve decided to create a Careers Timeline to help these pupils. I love visual aids and by producing a clear timeline I am hoping it will help pupils focus on what they need to do and when so that but the time they finish their GCSEs in June they can relax and enjoy their long summer safe in the knowledge they have a Plan A and a Plan B.
Careers education should be part of the whole school curriculum, therefore if subject teachers engage with careers there is a much better chance young people will make informed choices and set off on the right pathway at 16.
About our Community Expert
Head of Careers at The Windsor Boys' School
Combining her business experience with an ability to engage KS4&5 pupils in the classroom has enabled Jo to specialise in delivering learning experiences linked to the ‘real world’.
An advocate of apprenticeships as an alternative to the traditional university route, Jo states her greatest job satisfaction has come from helping pupils into apprenticeship roles and seeing them thrive.