New research into the aspirations of children suggests there is a strong case for providing careers education and support to younger children. Evidence suggests that even primary school aged pupils are already forming ideas about their future careers, and are coming to see some subjects and career paths as ‘not for me’. Young people’s aspirations remain an enduring focus of education policy interest, and this report encourages the idea that there is a value in preventing the ‘closing down’ of aspirations within this age period and informing and diversifying aspirations through integrating high-quality careers awareness into the curriculum.
Drawing on data from an ongoing, longitudinal study of young people’s science and career
aspirations (age 10-14), the ASPIRES project seeks to ascertain what young people today aspire to and what influences them. Previous research shows that aspirations can provide a likelyic indication of a young person’s future occupation – approximately half of young people expressing aspirations at age 15 end up in a similar type of occupation ten to fifteen years later. In the ASPIRES study, almost a third of children interviewed cited their family as a source of inspiration for future careers with 30 out of the 85 children who were re-interviewed at age 12/13 specially mentioning a family member who does the job that they aspire to. Of those citing family members as a source of inspiration for their aspirations, 10% were from disadvantaged backgrounds, and 37% were from the most privileged backgrounds, reflecting differences in the distribution of social capital in society. Overall, children reported that they had support and encouragement from their families for their aspirations and future success. It also revealed that those children with higher family cultural capital were expected to pursue higher education. The research highlights the dearth of careers education in early secondary school and indicates the importance of careers support for disadvantaged children. Careers education has the potential to provide a fairer distribution of social and cultural capital. The research strongly recommends providing additional careers educations support for disadvantaged schools. Through this implementation, there is hope that aspirations might really begin to constitute a tool for equity and social change.
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