Around eight in 10 teachers at schools in England think their pupils are less ready for the world of work than before the Covid-19 pandemic, a new survey suggests.
Some 79% of respondents said they believed school leavers were less ready for the job market than previous years, while 15% said there was no change and only 3% said pupils were more ready.
The findings have been published by the education charity Teach First, which said that a “postcode lottery” around careers education was ripe for change.
The figures are based on 3,400 responses to the Teacher Tapp daily survey app, collected from May 16-17, which have been weighted to make them representative.
The report also includes the results of a separate poll carried out by YouGov from May 5-10 of 503 human resources decision makers in businesses across Britain, which suggests nearly seven in 10 businesses (68%) are worried about young people’s literacy and numeracy while half (52%) are concerned about their IT skills.
Teach First’s report said this did not “bode well” for disadvantaged youngsters, as the pandemic had widened the disadvantage gap, meaning that poorer pupils would be even less prepared for working life.
More than half (56%) of businesses said they were worried “lost learning” from the pandemic would exacerbate the skills shortage for young people, while over half of teachers in schools serving poorer communities said they felt the pandemic had a negative impact on pupils’ views of their career prospects.
In its report, the charity made a number of recommendations, including that the Department for Education (DfE) should develop a framework for primary careers education with sector experts, and that the Government should use destinations data to target extra support for school leavers in poorer areas.
It added that the Government should provide £8.5 million of funding to support a mixture of online and in-person careers programmes for primary pupils in poorer areas focused on the top 10% most disadvantaged schools, while all large businesses should offer blended work experience programmes to disadvantaged young people.
Nearly seven in 10 (69%) of 3,400 respondents to the Teacher Tapp survey said they thought boosting careers education would decrease the number of young people who end up classified as NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training).
Pupils on free school meals are currently twice as likely to be NEET by age 18-24 compared to those not (26% compared to 13%).
Among primary school teachers, a Teacher Tapp survey of just over 1,500 respondents suggested that 71% said they felt that careers education for their pupils would raise awareness of different jobs, while 66% said it would raise pupils’ aspirations.
Teach First noted that the DfE has committed to a new careers programme for primary schools in poorer areas in the recent Schools White Paper, but added that the Government needed to publish a framework for primary careers learning based on the Gatsby benchmarks – eight benchmarks for careers provision – coupled with new funding.
The report calls for large businesses to collect and publish data on socioeconomic background to inform their recruitment policies and outreach work with schools.
Russell Hobby, chief executive of Teach First, said: “Our country’s long-term prosperity depends on the next generation of young people.
“Careers education is an essential part of that – making a significant impact on a young person’s development at school, as well as their future employment opportunities.
“Schools do their best to prepare pupils for the world of work but that is not their core purpose. That is why we believe it is essential that employers are involved in shaping the future of careers education.
“For too long, securing high-quality careers advice and work experience has been a postcode lottery – that must change.”