Bakkavor apprentice

Recent news of MPs calling for a ‘big stick’ approach to schools offering substandard careers advice - downgrading them in Ofsted inspections - will, I fear, do little to give children useful insight into their futures.

The problem lies within how we view the role of education and the current thinking driving the advice given to school leavers. What is the purpose of education? Surely it is to equip children with the skills and knowledge to allow them to take their place in the world. The challenge, I believe, lies in changing the way we view education and success. The education system we have today remains largely based on the original Victorian/industrial revolution model, which worked on the belief one can only succeed with an academic capability.

Yes, there are the fundamentals in academic subjects needed - including the three ‘r’s and other traditional subjects. However, there are many ’successful’ academics who don’t go on to succeed in life. Equally, there are many non-academics who do well. Prominent examples include Sir Richard Branson, Lord Alan Sugar, Baroness Mone, and a new non-academic success in the making in Ryan Longmuir.

If we are to equip our children for the best start to their adult life, we need to think what education will serve them best. In addition to the study of traditional subjects, education also needs to include in-depth study (not one-off half-day modules) of life skills such as financial management (one in four people today are in debt) and the study of personal self development.

Careers advice at school will remain woefully lacking while government-led initiatives continue to reward school performance only on the number of A levels and league tables. In the main, this is what drives decisions on what career advice is given to children.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, a US supreme court justice in the early 20th century, knew a thing or two. He described America’s “truly great tragedy” as “the destruction of our human resources by our failure to fully utilise our abilities, which means that most men and women go to their graves with their music still in them”. In that context, not getting three A*s doesn’t seem so bad. If you were 16 today, what careers advice would help you?

Jennifer Baker is a professionally trained executive coach with a strategic business background