Updated: Nov 11, 2020
2020 has been a challenging year for students, teachers and parents alike, but the upcoming term offers a new opportunity for schools to bring stability and enrichment to young people’s lives once again.
We’ve analysed some of the data we collected from over 5000 students around the country last year, picking out five areas where students want (or need) support the most.
This blog was born from the Aspirations Newsletter, which you can subscribe to here!
1. Work Experience
Work experience was the area prioritised most often by Aspirations students, from a total of 64 topics including skills, PHSE topics, and career options. Interestingly, this wasn’t just older students—this was the #1 area for KS3 as well!
Social distancing and huge uncertainty about what will and won’t be possible will make coordinating work placements even more difficult than usual. Thankfully, there are an increasing number of virtual (and free) work experience options out there, including Barclays Life Skills, BSMS and Speakers for Schools. For a longer list of potential providers, we recommend checking out Croydon Digital’s “Mega List”.
2. Managing your finances
With 62% of students saying they wanted to learn more about it, managing your finances was the highest-prioritised of all the ‘knowledge‘ topics. The chart below shows the trend for this question across year groups.
Of the students surveyed, only 47% thought they had a good understanding of the topic. With this in mind, the Young Foundation’s free digital textbook on personal finance might offer a good opener to start a conversation with your young people about this topic.
Alternatively, UK-based charity Mybnk offers free lessons plans, activities and resources on everything from money dilemmas to demystifying financial jargon.
With age, students’ interest in the topic increased. Interestingly, though, this corresponded with a decrease in perceived understanding—with the % of students answering “Yes” or “Absolutely” to “Do you understand this topic?” dropping from 49% in Year 7 to only 38% in Year 11.
3. Feeling safe
Prior to Covid-19, not feeling safe at school was the most commonly reported wellbeing issue among Aspirations students. Reasons given varied hugely, from bullying to feeling intimidated by older years. From September, we might expect health worries to be added into the mix. Meanwhile, 33% of students said that they didn’t have an adult at school who they could talk to if something was worrying them.
This highlights something we all know already—that it is hugely important all students are encouraged to share their concerns with a member of staff, and know that there is someone who will listen and help if they need it. At the same time, Aspirations data should be used to identify and follow up with all individuals with potentially concerning responses, in line with your school’s normal safeguarding policies and processes.
This topic making the list won’t surprise anyone, and we don’t doubt you’ll already be focusing on this, but we thought you might be relieved to know that improving their academic performance ranks highly on students’ priority lists as well as yours.
87% of students who responded said they wanted to improve on their current academic performance; this was fairly consistent across year groups and schools.
You’re the teaching experts, so we’ll leave determining how to conduct lessons in the new term to you!
Given that Aspirations is all about self-development, we were delighted to see this as a hugely popular skill amongst students—with 85% of those surveyed saying they wanted to get better at it.
Aspirations helps students practice and refine their self-development skills by encouraging them to set short-term objectives based on their longer-term goals each term. At the end of the term, ahead of refreshing their priorities and objectives, they are invited to reflect on progress: how did they get on? Were they too optimistic—or not ambitious enough? What do they want to do differently next time?
As teachers, one of the most valuable ways you can support at this stage is helping your students set short-term goals that balance ambition with realism. This isn’t easy—how many of you set yourselves completely realistic lockdown goals?!
Secondly, be reassuring when they don’t manage to complete their list first time around. They might feel better knowing that they’d be in good company—last year, only 28% of goals set by Aspirations students were achieved “completely”!
If you’d like to know more about how we work, from our methodology in collecting and analysing data to how we help our partner schools to instil a mindset of self-development in their students, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact us at Aspirations@eastlearning.co.uk.
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