Ask 10-year-olds what they want to be when they grow up, and what do they say — a celebrity? A soccer player? These days “video game designer” is a more likely answer than “train driver,” but do children need to be told that they can’t be Superwoman or a soccer star?
Primary schools in the UK have started instructing pupils in how to write their CVs and telling them to think “realistically” about their career prospects.
Children as young as eight are being given lessons on “what employers look for,” while those aged 10 are being shown how to produce a curriculum vitae (CV) that highlights their computer skills.
The classes are led by consultants working for Hays recruitment agency and have taken place in 100 primary schools in England so far.
The agency says the curriculum it has drawn up for primary schools will raise aspirations, help children to value education and prepare them for the workplace. However, critics say it strips youngsters of their childhood by telling them it is unrealistic to want to be a spaceman or Superwoman, and could cause unnecessary stress.
As part of the curriculum, children aged 10 write a CV listing the talents and characteristics they possess that are useful in the workplace. This includes their Excel and PowerPoint skills, punctuality record, interests and any certificates they have for music, sport or academic success. They take this with them to secondary school.
At ages eight and nine, they are asked to “realistically” consider which careers they are interested in, and are taught that employers value conscientious workers, team players and employees who are good at problem-solving.
Those who express an interest in careers that will require a degree are told that they will need to do well at school and go on to higher education. Those who suggest careers such as Superman are advised to rethink their plans.
The consultants are targeting schools in poor neighborhoods to break barriers to social mobility.
Sarah Rudd, headteacher of Newall Green primary school in Wythenshawe, Manchester — a neighborhood with high unemployment — says the consultants helped her pupils to aim high.
“Aspirations for some people in our area are low and there aren’t role models for them,” she said. “Around here it is all gangs, drugs and stuff you don’t want them to get involved in. This is about planting seeds early on that make children want to carry on in education and take up all the opportunities offered to them. By talking to them about their careers, they understand that they will have to go to university to get some of the jobs they want.”
Jenny Ward, who wrote the curriculum for Hays and teaches it in schools, said: “We show the children that they already have skills needed in jobs. I don’t think it is ever too early to talk to children about careers. We explain that how hard they try and the results they get will make a difference to the kind of car they will drive and the holidays they will have.”
However, Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: “This is much too young for children to be thinking about their future careers ... It also sounds cruel to tell them to think realistically about their careers. At their age, the world should be their oyster.”
In October, research from the education charity the Sutton Trust showed that only 55 percent of 15 and 16-year-olds in the UK received formal career advice last year, compared with 85 percent in 1997.
The UK’s schools secretary, Ed Balls, said: “We know it is often too late for children to start thinking about this at 14, when they are influenced from when they are seven, eight and nine.”
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