State schools students limited by lack of work experience

Charity Speakers for Schools found that half of students in the state sector leave school without any work experience – yet this is used a third of the time to assess applications at universities.

They said that UK is the home to "some of the highest-ranking university in the world," but the odds of attending "remain heavily stacked in favour of young people from privileged backgrounds."

Speakers for Schools' report suggested that applicants from affluent areas of the UK are nearly six times more likely to have a prestigious university offer, such as from a Russell Group institution, than those living in a disadvantaged area.

As well as this, the proportion of offers from Russell Group Universities dropped from 60 per cent in 2021 to 55 per cent in 2022, making competition more fierce.

Sarah Hannafin, head of policy at union NAHT said: “Work-related learning at secondary age is crucial to help pupils to think about their future, while providing them with a valuable taste of the world of work."

She said: “However, despite support for careers education from school leaders, the government removed the requirement to provide work experience and cut the funding schools used to have for this.

Hannafin added that broader careers education should begin at primary school by helping pupils to understand how working hard at school can bring opportunities in later life, offering them an insight into different careers.

Speakers for Schools also said that a lack of awareness and reduced access to enrichment activity and work experience presents hidden barriers for young people with more limited social and cultural capital.

"With intense competition for places, it is vital that talented young people can compete on a level playing field in securing access to our top universities," the charity added. 

The report makes several recommendations, including a call for universally funded work experience for state-school students in England. The charity estimates it would cost the government up to £75 million a year to fund, only 0.1 per cent of the annual schools’ budget.

The charity urges Russell Group universities to reach out to more schools in disadvantaged regions to inspire talented students.

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