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10th March 2022

Navigating Careers in the 21st Century

Oakham School is celebrating National Careers Week (7 to 12 March) by putting its Careers Department in the spotlight and highlighting the work they do to guide pupils through a vital time.

With support being offered throughout a pupil’s years at Oakham, the Careers Department play an important role in shaping the futures of our young individuals. We sat down with Head of Careers and Progression, Rachael Pearson, to talk about the Department, why you don’t need to have your career mapped out and how to handle the pressures associated with choosing the right path for you.

What advice would you give to pupils?

Rachael said: “The most important thing for pupils, and even their parents, to remember is that it’s not a problem if you don’t know what you want to do when you leave School.”

“I often get asked if there’s a point in your School life when you should have a clear career path for the future. Some students will know what they hope to do next, but many may not and this can sometimes sadly be a cause of worry for students. It’s perfectly normal and OK if you don’t. I want to reassure people that they don’t need to worry about not having everything mapped out whilst they’re still in their School years.”

“In cases like this, I advise pupils to choose subjects which interest them and that they know are their stronger topics. They can also choose a combination of subjects which keeps a lot of doors open to them when leaving School, so that they have options throughout their years in the Upper School and beyond.”

“Our role in the Careers Department is to position pupils to make well-informed decisions about their future and support them in any way we can and hopefully encourage them to view the possibilities as being exciting rather than daunting.”

Honing in on your interests

Rachael tells pupils that if they do have a career in mind, they should review what subjects will get them onto the higher education course they desire and advises them to also speak with their subject teachers one-to-one to gain more information about it.

Rachael added: “A piece of advice that I often give out to pupils who are making vital choices in their career path is to really look at the structure and assessment methods offered by a course, as well as its topics, before you make a decision. This is true for our Form 5 pupils choosing their A-levels, IB courses or BTECs, but is also relevant to Form 6 and 7 pupils looking at university courses. Is it coursework or exams-based? If a university course, what are the options for placements or studying abroad, and odes it need professional accreditation of any sort?”

“I think that by reviewing what modules you will study and what the course will offer you gives you a deeper understanding of whether or not you will enjoy it and whether it is the right course to support your career goals.”

But careers advice doesn’t just start in the later years at Oakham School, as Rachael and her team will start meeting with pupils from Form 3 upwards.

Starting with Form 3

Whilst a career or further education may seem a way off to our Form 3 pupils, it’s vital that they start to decide which path they might want to take in the future now so that they can review their strengths and interests.

In Form 3, all pupils will have a Careers-focused session where they will complete the Morrisby Careers online assessment – a form of psychometric testing – to learn more about their potential future pathways. Following this, pupils can then arrange a follow up one-to-one session with the department to further explore their options.

Form 4

Form 4 will complete a full Morrisby Careers Profile to find out more about their abilities and potential future career paths and are also given taught lessons on business and entrepreneurial skills to help them further develop their critical thinking.

Form 5

At such an important time in their lives, Form 5 are given multiple sessions whilst considering their post-16 choices. With Oakham School offering A levels, the IB Diploma and even BTECs in some subjects, there’s a lot for our pupils to consider during this time.

Whilst supporting them in making these choices, the Careers Department also hosts lessons on practical skills such as producing a CV and interview skills. Forms 5 and 6 are also encouraged to undertake work experience during the summer holidays to gain vital skills and knowledge in a range of fields.

Oakham School has a dedicated Work Experience Officer who helps pupils to secure competitive placements, including within the competitive medical and political sectors.

Upper School (Form 6 and 7)

Upper School pupils who are thinking about their journey to university or whichever path they may choose when they leave the School are given an array of support. This includes taught and one-to-one sessions on writing personal statements, applying for university, preparing CVs and informal advice on how they can prepare for the future.

The School also has a Clinical Applications Co-ordinator supporting students intending to progress to medical, dental and veterinary science courses, and an Oxbridge Co-ordinator supporting students applying to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

In Form 7, there are also many talks and events held to help prepare pupils for university and life beyond Oakham School. This includes a talk from a finance expert about student loans and financing when at university. Parents can also attend talks on vital topic such as what they can expect from the UK university process.

Pupils and parents are also supported on exam results day but can be referred to the Careers Department at any time if they have any questions.

International applications

With many international pupils at Oakham School, applying to go to a university abroad is a very common thing for the Careers Department to support. There are also a lot of pupils at the School who wish to go to university in America.

Rachael said: “The process for a UK resident applying to an American university is very different so it’s vital that we work with pupils and support them in this.”

To support these applicants, the School also hosts a Talk programme for Form 6 pupils who are hoping to study in America. Oakham School is also a SAT Test Centre, meaning pupils can sit their application exams for an American university within the School grounds.

Alongside its work in helping pupils prepare for the future, the Careers Department also runs and supports events throughout the year. This includes a Careers Fair, a Higher Education event and a Futures Conference, just to name a few. Throughout these events, pupils are able to speak to local and national businesses and organisations about their work, as well as liaise with Old Oakhamians who can provide a personal perspective into using the experience they gained in their years at Oakham School to have a successful career.

At Oakham School, about 90% of pupils choose university in the UK and abroad; they also gain places on leading courses for Art, Music, Drama and other prestigious pathways, as well as a growing interest in degree apprenticeships.

Whatever pathway a pupil may choose, the Careers Department recognises, highlights and celebrates the fact that there are many options and opportunities available to them.

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