Careers talks boost pupil motivation and grades, says new research

Attending careers talks can boost GCSE pupils’ motivation and improve academic attainment, with less engaged learners gaining most, a study claims.

Research by the charity Education and Employers suggests that pupils who attended three careers talks grew in confidence and studied harder, while some went on to outperform their predicted grades.

The charity has released a summary of the report, Motivated to achieve, with the full study due to be published on June 6.

Education and Employers studied 647 pupils in their GCSE year across five schools, 307 of whom received extra careers talks. Two hundred and ninety-seven answered the final post-GCSE survey on which the findings are based.

But Stephen Gorard, professor of education at Durham University, called for caution, claiming the trial was a “failed evaluation” because the method of analysis used was “inappropriate” given the missing data from the low response rate. The report recommends that a larger trial is now carried out.

Pupils attending talks reported a 9 per cent increase in weekly revision hours compared with their peers. Researchers said the analysis revealed an “indicative, direct link to students’ outperforming their predicted grades”, equating to one in 25 exceeding predictions by one grade.

Those who were “more sceptical of the value of education” had greater motivation increases, with those predicted a borderline pass in English GCSE reporting a 32 per cent increase in planned weekly revision hours, compared with a 10 per cent increase for those predicted higher grades.

Education and Employment said the study was the first randomised control trial in England to measure a link between encounters with the world of work and attainment.

Damian Hinds, the education secretary, added the report “underlines the value of good careers education”.

Earlier this month, a report from education think-tank LKMco said “multiple, varied interactions” should be set up between young people and employers until the age of 24.

Will Millard, head of policy advocacy at LKMco, said the new research “highlights how careers interventions can bolster academic outcomes”.


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  1. Careers education and guidance (CEG) is more than just listening to a talk. CEG incorporates well-planned lessons, access to good quality professional advice and activities such as work experience and mock interviews. Listening to a single talk is a poor substitute.

    • Mark Watson

      Something else I agree with you on!
      Going to careers talks (even if it’s only one) is better than nothing, but it would be a shame if this was held up as being a substitute for a proper programme of career support as you explain above.
      I note that Damian Hinds is promoting the benefit of “good careers education” – hopefully he understands the difference too …