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Are sixth form careers guidance and work experience opportunities much better in private schools?

(55 Posts)
dithering14 Mon 01-Sep-14 22:18:43

DD1 is weighing up the pros and cons of changing from a state school to a selective private school for sixth form. She is an academic all rounder who does not know what she wants to do and has no particular leaning towards professions such as medicine or law. She would therefore really benefit at some stage from better careers information and wider choices of work experience than her present school or we could offer.
We'd love to know from your experiences whether you think there is a tangible difference to what is offered in the better know private schools? Does it matter anyway if students can avail themselves of career advice and networking at university?

titchy Mon 01-Sep-14 22:48:17

She should be sorting out her own work experience! Can't comment on careers advice but she can find out a lot herself surely, and maybe pay for a private session with someone - much cheaper than two years of fees.

dithering14 Tue 02-Sep-14 06:58:30

Titchy* you are right about organising work experience herself but that presupposes that she knows what she might be heading towards.
I am not talking about about generic benefits from part time work but instead whether private schools offer better opportunities for insights into what different careers involve and more application options for future holiday work placements or internships. Of course it could all be down to parental networking rather than the schools smile

The sort of private career advice that you mention including online ones seem to be a bit nebulous from what I can gather but I may be wrong. I would have though that talks from people actually doing the jobs or work experience would be more likely to help a DC have an idea of what different jobs actually entail.

titchy Tue 02-Sep-14 08:01:03

I have no experience of private, but as they only have one year till they have to apply, I doubt much, if any of that year would be spent succession of visits from journalists, doctors or barristers. Suspect though that more parents would be in the professions and a child might gain an insight through that.

Careers guidance though I think is woeful in the uk - in both sectors.

TheWordFactory Tue 02-Sep-14 08:05:07

In my experience of visiting a lot of schools as part of the access program, provision got advice on universities (particularly selective ones ) is pretty poor.

That's not to say some schools do it well or that you can't find the info elsewhere.

dithering14 Tue 02-Sep-14 08:14:15

Word does that include private schools?
Titchy the private schools (boarding) we're looking at say that they have regular career sessions with outside speakers. I'm not sure what actually happens in practice though. It would seem that any talks from lawyers, medics and likely journalists would be wasted on DD1 smile.

YeGodsAndLittleFishes Tue 02-Sep-14 08:19:50

Private boarding school gives them a network of friends (and their families) who can sometimes offer interesting insights to a variety of careers and some do provide the school (or their own child's friends, by private agreement) some work experience occasionally. This can happen to some extent in state schools but not all.

YeGodsAndLittleFishes Tue 02-Sep-14 08:20:40

*and it doesnt necessarily happen in all private schools either.

Bilberry Tue 02-Sep-14 08:21:19

I imagine parents at private schools may have better contacts to help their children arrange work experience. Talks by people in different careers are often delivered by parents so those in private schools will probably have more financially successful careers as they can afford the school fees. Having said that, private schools pupils can have a wider range of backgrounds than, say, a state school in a sought after catchment.

dithering14 Tue 02-Sep-14 15:05:01

Agreeing with all the above but do parents of DCs in private schools think the career input there has really influenced or helped their DCs make decisions for university and beyond?

MillyMollyMama Tue 02-Sep-14 16:34:38

You need to be aware that there are private schools and top private schools. My DDs were both at a pretty good girls' boarding schools (different ones) but had no work experience opportunities. Careers talks were a bit hit and miss too. Contrast this with boys I know who went to Harrow. Their old boys' network and work opportunities were stellar! Nothing was too much trouble. Therefore I would say that most independent schools can arrange careers evenings and talks in school, but only the very best harness their previous students to offer any meaningful work experience, mentoring and advice. My DDs schools were largely useless at this. Therefore, if you pay for a top school, you may well be in a better position, but I would not anticipate the average independent school to be that brilliant.

It may be a good learning experience to organise your own work experience, but, believe me, the experiences available at some schools are fabulous and provide genuine networking opportunities. All part of the service!

TheWordFactory Tue 02-Sep-14 17:44:25

dithering I don't tend to visit private schools, but given their success at getting applicants into the most selective universitir, I suspect the advice must be generally good .

However, this isn't the same as careers advice.

I don't know much about that, other than the experience of my own DC,who attend private school.

dithering14 Tue 02-Sep-14 18:02:49

Thanks Milly. I wonder whether in fact any of the 'top' girls' or co-ed schools replicate what happens for career talks etc at Harrow or Eton.

Word I would appreciate any comments you might have from your DCs' private schools although I understand that is drawn from more limited experience than your outreach work.

OddBoots Tue 02-Sep-14 18:08:00

We can't afford private school but we have for ds (about to start Y11) paid out a very worthwhile (in my opinion) £95 to get an assessment and careers advice so he has some good ideas about what he's moving towards but in terms of A Levels and then career. He hasn't decided for certain what career but he now knows some of the options that suit his abilities and interests and has chosen A Levels that keep those options open for him.

There are many good reasons to choose a particular school for your child but I don't think careers advice and work experience are among them.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 02-Sep-14 18:13:51

Word what information or advice do you think state sixth forms tend to be poor at giving? I ask this quite genuinely! Am drawn to this thread as we begin the year-long nerve-wrack that is year 13!

I can't answer OP not having anything to compare to. Can only say dd had a good work experience in local law firm, and more advice on universities than I ever did!

TheWordFactory Tue 02-Sep-14 18:16:39

ditheting the careers advice is pretty decent at my DCs schools provided the pupils intend to work in high status roles.

Utterly hopeless if anyone doesn't want to go to university and become a plumber !

headlesslambrini Tue 02-Sep-14 18:25:00

Does she have an idea about what type of industry she wants to enter? Science, health, legal, environmental etc?

OwlCapone Tue 02-Sep-14 18:25:32

DSs private school runs regular evening talks on a variety of careers with speakers (often parents) from a range of jobs withing a specific type of employment. They also offer "careers profiling" where the pupils sit some sort of aptitude tests to give them some ideas.

I think it depends entirely on the school though, you can't generalise.

TheWordFactory Tue 02-Sep-14 19:44:49

nit I think one of the problems is schools that address the university issue far too lasted - and some pupils have already done horrible combos of GCSEs and A levels.

They just did not get the right advice (or any advice) at the time.

Then there is the reluctance by some schools to grasp the nettle of equivalence.

Then there are all the usual nuggets around personal statements, finance etc....

I dispair sometimes how little advice these young people are given!

But you really really don't need to worrysmile. I am certain your DD will have taken sensible options and that you know what's what .

This is of course the big divisionism the UK. Who has a parent who knows the system and who doesn't!

Though frankly schos should do much better at filling this gap IMVHO .

joanofarchitrave Tue 02-Sep-14 19:52:09

Approximately a million years ago I went to these guys who were very good. I wish I'd been to them while i was at school, rather than spend time in the careers cupboard library including info on how to become a wigmaker, and a quiz which told me I should go into hotel and catering work (I can't cook, hate parties and live in squalor). Why not try them first?

dithering14 Tue 02-Sep-14 20:18:36

Oddboots I agree that it is not enough of a reason to pay for private but in her case it might tip the balance which is why we are interested in your experiences. You could argue that for some private schools that is what ultimately provides the edge in future life however unfair for those DCs who are n't already singleminded.

Thanks Word. However useful it would be to us I don't think DD1 wants to be a plumber grin.

Headless afraid not though but part of the issue is she really does n't have much of an idea what different jobs involves. She likes most sciences, maths, MFLs, likes thought of working in a team, seems quite practical but not in a mechanical, civil engineer sort of way.

Joan thanks, we may well pursue that link if we don't go ( or even if she does) go down private route.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 02-Sep-14 21:22:17

Thanks word- at this stage, it's all useful to hear, because time seems to be going awfully quickly!

CareersDragon Tue 02-Sep-14 21:41:17

As somebody who has worked in careers guidance for 30 (OMG!!!!) years, and who sent DD to independent school, I would say it really does depend on the individual school.

It would seem that your DD's most difficult decision will be what to study for A levels if she is an academic all-rounder, and hasn't much idea of the direction that she wants to go in. Whichever subjects she chooses will narrow her options & university options. Taking advice from staff who don't know her, her abilities or her interests about this at a new school isn't ideal.

In my experience, using a good psychometric assessment, like the Morrisby Profile, would help her to look at her relative abilities across a number of areas and can match these up with career interests. It is a 3+hour long assessment and combined with guidance from a qualified careers professional can help to choose the best A levels to keep a number of routes open. Look at the Morrisby website to find a qualified professional near you: They have just released an online version of their test which is shorter, but less in-depth.

The best state & independent schools will be good at preparing students for the top universities, and for academic degree courses. Less good at more unusual or perhaps vocational degrees...They may offer a wider choice of A level subjects, or the International Baccalaureate.

In terms of work experience, most schools only offer 1 week, usually towards the end of Year 12. By then, it's usually to confirm an interest in a career, or to fulfil a requirement for uni courses. Too late for exploration really...

However it's not essential to know what career she wants to go into at this stage. If she's heading for uni; can choose her A level subjects wisely, which will lead on to relevant degree courses.... and then onto relevant careers. Many graduate jobs do not specify degree subject.
If you would like to know more about what jobs different degrees can lead to, look at the "What Do Graduates Do?", and "Options with my degree subject" sections on the Prospects graduate website:

dithering14 Tue 02-Sep-14 22:37:49

CareersDragon whichever establishment you work for must be grateful to have you thanks. Very useful advice which I will pass on to her and then she can decide whether she wants the psychometric assessment to help choose her A levels. She has at least excluded some subjects smile.
I have to say that the better private schools would be doing something worthwhile for their charitable status if they opened up these career talks to interested sixth formers from local state schools.

CareersDragon Tue 02-Sep-14 23:36:35

How kind of you to say so, dithering. I'm actually freelance now, so I work mostly with individuals and with a private school in Cardiff - it's always good to be appreciated!

Many private schools do open up their events & facilities to the wider community, including when they put on Careers Fairs/Conventions. You could ask if the state schools that interest you have links with any independent schools locally. It's quite common for universities eg Oxbridge to do talks covering a number of local schools.

My main advice would be to let your DD use her curiosity about life/ subjects/ hobbies etc etc to explore the world beyond school, wherever she goes. If she loves music / art / dancing/ languages/ sciences or whatever, provide as many opportunities as you can for her to explore her interests & talents. Volunteering is a really good way of testing one's interests & getting really involved in something worthwhile, whilst making contacts that might be useful later, and getting references too. It's never too early to start!

Whatever she decides, good luck to her smile

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