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Digital Skills For The Real World - How industry professionals can benefit Primary Schools

There is much talk amongst educators, academies, trusts, and schools throughout the UK about Knowledge and Skills in the curriculum.

It feels, already, an overused phrase, like it’s the picture that hangs on the wall but unless you look at it, you just never realise it’s still there. Is there value in this?

How important are these knowledge and skills that get dragged into curriculum meetings up and down the UK?

What exactly does the education system mean by ‘knowledge’ and ‘skills’?

Skills for industry or just the curriculum?

Many of us in education will know the idea of teaching to a test. Anyone who has passed their driving test will appreciate this. Know what you need to know to get the accreditation you need, then afterwards actually learn how to do it in the real world.

Sadly, when educators talk about knowledge and skills, this is exactly the sentiment. Know and do what you need to do to satisfy this curriculum. Unfortunately, the curriculum, especially in Computing doesn’t lend itself to equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need in the generalised world. This has been discussed on other blogs, please refer to the blog page on to read more about this.

A government press release promoted for National Careers Week, shows great intent on industry professionals bringing life experience and knowledge into primary classrooms. Showing children skills and understanding which are fit for purpose in the real world.

The Primary Futures program, specifically promotes and engages industry professional to primary schools to develop tangible knowledge and skills for the real work place, beyond education. It also focuses on raising awareness of industries that may be little known to students and so bringing more aspirations for futures.

The program, crucially challenges the thinking behind the ‘point of education’ and what is actually fit for purpose.

Children should leave education as well-rounded individuals, ready for the world they live in, however too often we read reports of students not having those skills necessary for jobs in today’s society. This stumbling block, seemingly appears unaccounted for in the current curriculum.

How many times have we heard kids say, “what’s the point?” and then the teacher, quite rightly as part of the job, retorts with a reference back to previous learning and the context of current learning in future learning around the subject. This is considered good teaching. But, this is actually still only in the context of a curriculum NOT the real world.

Primary futures and the essence of this blog suggest the context of learning should be put into real life.

Rising Stars Mathematics scheme has such an emphasis, which sets it apart from other commonly used schemes in the UK. Perhaps ahead of it’s time, as the latest edition shows us, or maybe just challenging the way we educate and learn. The point is, this shows that core subjects are taking on this approach and reflect how important the ethos behind such pedagogy has more meaning and value.

Computing careers – Surely you just work with laptops and i-pads?

It’s important that children know their options. If they have a direction they might want to head in, then their education and what they're being asked to learn carries more meaning. The 'point' of what they're trying to achieve has purpose.

It is a lot to ask a primary child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” but if the question was, “What do you enjoy doing most. What do you think you will be enjoying doing when you grow up?” this is a totally different proposition.

A follow up question of, “Do you know what jobs are available in that industry?” doesn’t limit their thinking to one single job or idea but opens them to many possibilities in a given area of interest.

Especially in Computing, there will be a variety of roles in the real world children would never be aware of, unless they know someone within the industry. If that someone works alongside them at school, what better place to raise aspirations!

The children will start to understand why and how to apply certain programming languages, for example, or certain computational skills. This allows the students to become more in tune with the real impact of their learning. They have a real context, from the professional beside them, to accommodate this new information into.

This approach is supported by and is in keeping with the new Ofsted Framework of ‘Personal Development’ which specifically states a school should be ‘developing talents and interests’ of it’s pupils. Using industry professionals, especially for a niche subject such as Computing is a massive advantage for any school.

The Career and Enterprise Company

The Career and Enterprise Company have offered over £2 million in grants for companies to onboard and be involved in Primary Schools, to promote and progress interest in their industries.

What does it look like in primary schools?

The aims are to develop interest and awareness of industries. Moreover, it intends to remove stigma from common industries such as fireman only being male, or nurses only being female. It can address the issue of dominated fields but show this isn’t how it has to be, that this can be challenged.

Such stereotypes, as a report from The Career and Enterprise Company shows, result in low self-esteem for perceived minorities entering such professions or industries. As such, representation to children and students should promote this anti-stereotyping, with female road workers, project managers, scientists and perhaps male nursery workers, nail technicians, secretarial or administrative workers.

Shaping the children’s worldly views into a more balanced approach will inevitably allow for greater freedom of choice and raised confidence in those choices. When the ‘point’ of education is clear relative to their chosen field, children will understand and see the benefits from their learning, in a real world context.

This will help engagement, aspirations and achievements, resulting in a stronger workforce with the real skills to succeed. Who knows it may even help the economy.

For now, we should be using inspirational people in our communities to show children what their possibilities are not only for careers, but what is possible for themselves, what are they truly capable of?

Unlock potential with industry professionals.

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