University of Oxford: Oxford study shows government programme increases pupil focus on careers

The newly published report details the key findings of the study which was carried out using Oxford University’s Litmus for Schools Programme, adapted from the University’s own Litmus career registration programme, in collaboration with Trinity College, Oxford’s work in the region with schools.

The study was carried out in June/July this year and focused on Year 10 (56%) and Year 11 (44%) students at schools across the North East. As well as the standard Litmus questions on frame of mind, industry interest, and perceived employability skills, this localised version included questions on destinations post-16 and -18, and the effect of the pandemic on career choice.

The study found that the pupils on the ONE programme, delivered by the region’s two Local Enterprise Partnerships, had significantly higher levels of career planning and engagement than those not on the programme – more than any other factor such as gender, parental graduate status or ethnicity which have traditionally been shown to be the most significant influences on the career aspirations of children. The North East Litmus programme has shown that pupils are more likely to be actively engaging in their career plan the more industry and careers knowledge they have and have benefited significantly in this area from the ONE programme input.

More careers and industry knowledge is also associated with more confidence about demonstrating key employability skills and this was borne out in the study. It also showed that a pupil’s engagement with post-school career plans was only slightly associated with their gender and parental university status and not at all associated with their ethnicity and free school meal status.

The study found a statistically significant difference between pupils on the ONE programme and those not on the ONE programme in terms of their careers knowledge. 42% on the ONE programme state “I feel very well supported with Careers” v. 25% for other pupils, and 50% on the programme state they feel they have “enough experience and knowledge to make the choices,” v. 35% of non-ONE programme pupils.

With regard to pupils’ industry interests these were found to mirror the national picture and are quite strongly gender-divided with girls favouring healthcare, beauty and hair, education and social work, while boys are favouring engineering, construction, cars, and sports. Post-16 and post-18, boys are favouring apprenticeships or jobs while girls are favouring tertiary education.

Commenting on the findings, Jonathan Black, Director of Oxford University’s Careers Service, said “We are pleased to have been able to apply the Careers Service Litmus system for the benefit of pupils and schools in the North East. This exercise has shown the power of collaboration with colleagues at Trinity College, Oxford, our software suppliers gti, and in the DfE and Local Enterprise Partnerships in the region. The results have confirmed the positive effect the ONE programme has had, and point the way to even greater benefits if we were to roll this out more widely.”

Katherine Cowell, Regional Schools Commissioner for the North and member of ONE Strategic Board said “I’m grateful to Oxford University for supporting pupils and schools in our region through their Litmus Survey, and delighted that it has shown how the Opportunity North East programme is significantly benefitting young people in the North East. The Litmus Survey can really help schools to shape their careers offer, so that increasing numbers of young people find a pathway to a good job and future.”

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