“Don't specialise too early in School” : Mrs Thatcher Tells pupils and parents
“I believe that children, parents and teachers should all realize that to drop certain subjects too soon can damage a child's whole future. I am sure there are many in my generation who suffered from specialising too early in school. If we see our children are given a broad education—arts and science—up to sixteen, then they can pursue whatever career they choose” , said Mrs Margaret Thatcher, Education Secretary, when she opened the “Opportunity 70” Careers Exhibition at Olympia today.
Earlier Mrs Thatcher had referred to the wider opportunities that will be open to school leavers in the 1970s, in further and higher education:
“But some of these facilities will be wasted unless parents and pupils know: what is on offer, where to obtain advice, how to get on the appropriate course and what grants are available.
“Since the Robbins Report there has been a great expansion in student numbers. Last year 437,000 were taking full-time courses in higher education. The total number tops 3,000,000 when we include all students in further education on full and part-time courses. But for many of our young people the choice can be bewildering. It is difficult enough to decide between courses in universities, polytechnics, colleges of education or colleges of further education, let alone to choose the right kind of course and syllabus among the thousands available.
“Many families haven't enough experience to advise a young person on the best course to take. A high proportion of our sixth-formers are first generation sixth-formers. In some cases the parents' ambitions for their child are unrealistically high. In others pressures are perhaps working in the opposite direction; less able or less ambitious friends may already be working and have money to spend. To a teenager, academic status at school may not make up for the money which his friends are earning. So full information and advice is badly needed. But what sort of provision is there?
“Evidence shows that young people are not satisfied with the guidance they have received. A recent survey showed that only 11 per cent of the students in further education colleges knew about the facilities available in the colleges while they were still at school. [end p1]
“A Granada Television programme earlier this year gave particulars of an inquiry conducted among Manchester University undergraduates which suggested that 72 per cent of them had been given some help in the sixth-form to choose a career or course—but almost all of them thought that the advice was of poor quality.
“A few years ago 70 per cent of students at Keele University were changing their minds after the foundation year about the subjects they wanted to read. In the Granada inquiry in Manchester, 28 per cent of the students said that they had taken the wrong university course.
“If all is not well it is our job between us to try to put things right. In many cases careers guidance in schools is treated as an optional extra. Careers teachers are only rarely given the status needed to enable them to do their job properly. But one teacher can't do it alone. Other members of staff must be involved and the support of the head teacher is particularly important. Careers officers and careers teachers have been making great effort to improve matters. I welcome the foundation of the National Association of Careers Teachers.”