Underachieving boys 'benefit from targeted work experience'

By Joe Lepper

| 06 July 2018

Targeted work experience programmes can boost school attainment levels and opportunities among groups of underachieving boys, an inquiry on the issue has heard.

The Youth select committee is conducting an inquiry on barriers to work experience. Picture: UK Parliament

Evidence from the work experience pilot, involving 20 year 10 boys, has found that their expected GCSE grades have increased, with some moving up two maths sets after completing the project.

Their aspiration and confidence levels have also risen, according to early evaluation of the project, which took place in Ipswich, Oldham and Bradford. All three areas were selected as they have been designated by the government as social mobility and opportunity areas, where young people need further support to reach their potential.

According to 2016 research by the Sutton Trust, white working class children achieve the lowest grades at GCSE of any ethnic group, with just a quarter of boys and a third of girls gaining five good GCSEs.

Those involved in the pilot, which is run by Barclays Lifeskills programme and the charity Transformation Trust, spent a year taking part in life skills courses and work experience sessions.

"We have just completed a pilot working with 20 white working class boys in year 10 in three areas, Ipswich, Oldham and Bradford," said Barclays Lifeskills senior programme manager Kate McGoey, who was speaking at the youth select committee hearing.  

"Over an academic year they have had facilitated life skills sessions and multiple experiences of the world of work and we are evaluating that against a controlled group. The early indications are that already their expected grades at GCSE have gone up, some have gone up two maths sets.

"In terms of the anecdotal evidence around their aspirations, confidence and just feeling the sense of positivity for the future, it is very powerful."

The inquiry by the youth select committee is looking into the barriers around work experience and is also hearing evidence from education and academic experts, as well as young people who have taken part in work experience.

"Work experience has become a growing concern for young people seeking to enter the workplace. We are looking forward to ensuring we hear a variety of voices on this issue so we can make strong recommendations to the government," said committee chair Claudia Quinn.

The committee, made up of 11 young people and supported by the British Youth Council, launched the inquiry earlier this year after work experience was voted in the top three issues by young people in the annual Make Your Mark ballot.

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