The purpose of education – To build confidence & ambition, & to aid social mobility

This blog was prompted by three things, a blog by @MsFindlater called Building Cathedrals  a blog by @Isobel_CGC  called Why are schools so poor at communicating with careers guidance providers and the call by Blogsync for people to blog on The purpose of education.

Most of you who have read other blogs by me will know my single minded dedication to the cause of improving careers education in schools; I’m not going to move from that stance.  Careers education & learning is one of the Cinderella areas of education and isn’t as ‘sexy’ as  T&L, performance data, speaking & listening and all the other buzzword/phrases that educationalists use.

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at

For headteachers careers learning is a bolt on, something they need to do like providing lunches & medical care.  It’s something that is fairly universally regarded as important but that doesn’t  directly impact on school league table results in a directly measurable way. It is also something that is an alien concept to many heads and leadership teams.  Ofsted, The CDI (Careers Development Institute) and careers professionals need to educate the teachers about its importance; not just to the pupils but to the teachers who would benefit from more motivated classes who have goals in place to work towards.

However, since we have entered the world of league tables, Ofsted outstanding, self evaluation and Raise Online, schools are quite naturally targeting all their resources and expenditure on activities that can be proven in a data sense to improve their results.  Things that teachers have, for hundreds of years done automatically to improve the prospects of their pupils are no longer allowed to be on the urgent to do list.  Things such as spending time with pupils building self image and reliance reluctantly fall by the wayside. Holistic education, by reason of necessity, is relegated to the back burner by the politicisation of education policy.

Ms Findlater talks in her blog about the pleasure in that holistic approach, preparing pupils for the future, delighting in their achievements. It made my heart sing to read it Sarah, very moving.  To my mind it is the essence of the purpose of education.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at

Isobel_CGC asks why schools have such difficulty communicating with careers professionals. Is it arrogance on the part of teachers who feel they are superior to other professions?  Whilst there are undoubtedly arrogant teachers, the majority simply don’t understand the role of careers learning in the importance of holistic education in regard to pupil outcomes.


By pupil outcomes I don’t mean 5+ A*-C, I mean their ability to transfer what they learn from the paper or screen into their real life activities:-

  1. Can they look at their achievements and pinpoint the skills that they have demonstrated?
  2. Can they understand & model why they need to work effectively in teams?
  3. Can they objectively reflect on their performance and relate this to what is expected of them in various situations?
  4. Can they evaluation information and relate it to the situation in hand?
  5. Are they discriminating in their belief and use of information available to them?
  6. Are they resilient self managers?

All of the above come from the QCA Personal Learning & Thinking Skills framework which is used by many schools and colleges to make the essentially target driven education system of today more holistic & relevant.  All of the above contribute to a young persons employability.  The government preoccupation with destinations data seems to be an attempt to move towards a more balanced view of the purpose of education.  I’m not 100% convinced that this is a good move in reality, only time will tell.

As a parent & grandparent I know if I were given the choice, what measure I’d choose.  Say I had the choice of 2 schools:-

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at

  • X which turned out A* exam passes but poor to middling destinations data and
  • Y who turned out B/C grade pupils who were sticking to their chosen routes into work be it university, work based learning or apprenticeship

My social class and/or social mobility may well be a factor in the choice, established professional people usually have the knowledge and contacts available to be able to choose school A and make up the shortcomings at home.

Most ambitious parents in non professional roles would not necessarily have the contacts and knowledge to make up that shortfall at home.  They may indeed be attracted by the idea of great exam results but then find out that their darling Johnny has wasted a year and 9k of student debt to find out that he doesn’t after all want to train to be a lawyer, despite having stayed on and worked hard for the required A level grades.

Finally, parents who have little or no ambition for their children or who have limited ideas of the life choices available to their offspring probably wouldn’t care which school their child went to.  Thus it would be pot luck what effect education had upon their child.  In the high achieving school they would probably be rudderless in the stream of life and they would most likely have little ambition and possibly end up excluded and in a spiral of feelings of worthlessness. In school B there is a much higher chance of their strengths being identified and ambitions nurtured.

Thus, I would like to suggest that the aim of education is to build confidence and  ambition,Smilie Image courtesy of farconville at & aid social mobility – of course, I’ll end by saying that good careers learning is central to this ambition.  There, told you I’d not change my stance

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