Page last updated at 08:09 GMT, Monday, 26 October 2009

Career advice for seven-year-olds

gardening at school
It is hoped the scheme will raise children's aspirations

Children as young as seven are to be offered careers guidance under a government scheme in England.

The programme, which aims to broaden the horizons and raise the aspirations of children from deprived backgrounds, is to be piloted in seven local areas.

Universities and firms will give pupils a glimpse of what it is like working and learning in adulthood.

The move comes as an annual survey shows careers guidance for teenagers has fallen over the past 12 years.

Under the government scheme, careers advice will continue up to the age of 18.

It is being tried in 38 primary schools in seven local authority areas: Bristol, Coventry, Gateshead, Manchester, Plymouth, Reading and York.

'High aspirations'

The programme aims to challenge some of the "negative stereotyping" that leads some children from poorer backgrounds to believe that universities and certain careers are out of reach for them.

Children will be offered career-related learning in a range of areas to raise awareness of what they can achieve.

It is hoped this will lay the foundations for them to make good subject choices in secondary schools and inspire them to do well.

As part of the new careers strategy, parents will be urged to think while their children are still in primary school about what jobs they might want to do.

Online advice

New research suggests that many children have very high aspirations at age 11, with 75% saying they want to go to university.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families wants teachers and parents to build on this to get children thinking about higher education, especially those from homes where no members of their family have been to university before.

Careers advice at the time you select your GCSE subjects is early enough
Paul Cook, Northumberland

The department stresses the scheme is not about helping children decide what job they want to do, but showing them what can be possible so they fulfil their potential.

There will also be more help for disadvantaged and disabled young people in accessing work experience and every young person is to get a careers mentor.

Less advice

Children are also to be offered good information, advice and guidance online on Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites.

But a survey conducted annually by researchers at Durham University suggests advice and guidance for teenagers at school has plummeted over the last 12 years.

The survey of 15 and 16-year-olds, commissioned by the Sutton Trust education charity, shows the proportion who said they had had formal career adviser meetings fell from 85% in 1997 to 55% in 2008.

The proportion saying they learned "some" or "a lot" from career advisers or teachers fell from 49% in 1997 to 25% in 2008, while those receiving career talks reduced from 45% to 22%.

The survey asks the same questions to tens of thousands of school children each year.

On a positive note, the number of school pupils who had visited universities had increased from 11% in 1997 to 23% in 2008.

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