Raising aspiration needs opportunities not just cheerleaders

    “TEACHERS are ‘to blame’ for lack of ambition among pupils” is the attention-grabbing headline in today’s Daily Telegraph.

    The new education minister, David Laws, believes that teachers should do more to encourage the aspirations of pupils and encourage them to aim for the stars and too often the expectations set at school have an impact on the social mobility of pupils, leaving them thinking certain careers or places of work are “not for them”.

    Mr Laws believes that low career expectations have a direct impact on pupil performance that leads to them getting lower exam grades than they might have done had they believed they could go further. He is right – low expectations can be a big factor in low achievement. Teachers have a central role in influencing the aspirations of young people, but so do parents, politicians, the media and many others.

    More importantly, merely encouraging aspiration isn’t enough. The opportunities need to be there for young people to fulfil those raised aspirations or you end up creating a generation which is even more disenchanted and disconnected.

    In our report, The Frustration of Aspiration, we looked at the issues facing young people today and, as the data shows, it is clear that the opportunities available to young people differ enormously depending on where they live, something that cannot be tackled by simply asking teachers to be more encouraging.

    If we are to provide real and lasting support to this generation, we need to equip them with the skills they need to achieve their aspirations, providing them with a true understanding of the world of work and the ability to manage their own sustainable lives.

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