Today’s Leading People report from the Sutton Trust demonstrates that jobs in many of the country’s most prestigious professions are disproportionately filled by people who have attended independent schools. The report attributes this to independent school pupils’ access to a range of opportunities in relation to aspirations, non-cognitive skills extracurricular activities and academic attainment which their counterparts in state schools lack.
Responding to these findings, PSHE Association Chief Executive Joe Hayman said:
“Today’s report challenges us to consider how we can build an education system which maximises the life chances of all pupils, particularly the most disadvantaged, so that they have the same opportunities as their more advantaged peers. As the Sutton Trust says, this is a complex problem to which there are no easy answers, but the report does identify opportunities to give state school pupils some of the same advantages their privately educated peers benefit from, including raising aspirations, developing non-cognitive skills and providing high-quality extracurricular opportunities.
As shown in our partnership with Siemens, PSHE education can play a crucial part in building career aspirations starting at primary school level. Through our work under the Department for Education’s character education grant programme, we are helping schools to prioritise the development of key skills and attributes in their PSHE programmes. In recognition of the importance of these skills and attributes, independent schools standards set an expectation that they will provide high-quality PSHE education; a similar expectation for state schools could help to narrow the life chances gap.
High-quality work experience programmes and opportunities such as the National Citizen Service are also critically important to ensuring state school pupils get similar opportunities to their more advantaged counterparts. PSHE education can help lay the groundwork in the classroom so that pupils feel prepared for, and can make the most of, these real-world experiences. The PSHE Association also backs the idea of a ‘passport’ which would enable pupils to easily demonstrate non-academic experiences, and the skills they develop through such experiences, to future employers.
Finally, it is worth reiterating how crucial academic success is to future life chances. Too many pupils leave school without sufficiently good grades in subjects like English and maths, putting them at a huge and often lifelong disadvantage. We need to raise expectations both for academic success and for preparation for life and work, recognising that ambition, resilience and character are both important ends in themselves and highly-effective means to aid academic and professional success.”