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North East Ambition's Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot has been highlighted as an example of good practice in the latest report by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), which advocates for earlier careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) within primary education. Matt Joyce, Regional Lead for North East Ambition explains more.

Every year UCAS supports 700,000 students around the world to apply to Higher Education (HE) in the UK. Their most recent publication, Where Next?, brings to light new and unparalleled insight into the drivers and enablers behind student choice when considering their onward educational journey including HE.

Based on 27,000 individuals who shared their experiences, UCAS was trying to uncover how they could achieve their ultimate goal of ensuring young people should have an equal opportunity to access high-quality, personalised and well-timed support to explore their future pathways.

The report makes comment on the need for children in the primary phase to begin considering their future options, and makes reference to specific recommendations of implementing primary age benchmarks – an initiative that the North East LEP has been piloting since 2019. 

When considering the age at which a young person starts to explore HE options, the research indicates that young people should be aware of the impact of their choices and how it may influence their future. The report advocates for earlier and more personalised CEIAG and that it should be embedded within primary education.

One in three students realised that HE was an option to them when they were still in primary school yet more disadvantaged students tended to consider HE later. To support the wider levelling up agenda and raise aspirations from an early age, it is important to have HE included as part of a broad and balanced careers programme within the primary phase of education.

We were really pleased to see this research add to the ever-increasing evidence base for the importance of embedding careers related learning in primary schools. This is why we have been piloting a framework for good careers guidance within 70 primary schools across the region from Early Years to Key Stage 2.

The Career Benchmarks: Primary Pilot project builds on what we learnt when the North East was the pilot region for testing the Good Careers Guidance (or Gatsby) Benchmarks, which are a central part of the DfE’s Careers Strategy in England and aim, amongst other goals, to ensure that all young people learn about and understand the full range of FE and HE options. The project has had a remarkable impact on the quality of careers guidance young people receive and it was clear there was the potential to adapt the framework to meet the needs of younger children as well.

It is heartening that this report from UCAS has championed our Pilot by highlighting the fact that earlier good careers guidance and a set of age-appropriate benchmarks, linked to those used in secondary schools and colleges, can help raise aspirations and ensure young people are given the best possible start in life.

You can read the full UCAS report here.