'Careers advice should be given to every child of primary-school age,' said Barry Sheerman, a Labour member of the forum. 'For too many children, a future as a fairy princess or pop star is the only dream they have, and it doesn't occur to them to aspire to go to university, be a doctor or a scientist.
'It would, of course, have to be done in a delicate way,' he added. 'We are not suggesting sitting a five-year-old child down with a list of firm options but you need to inspire the imagination of the children to see where their potential could lead them...
The notion of providing careers advice for five-year-olds was cautiously welcomed by Chris Davis, Chair of the National Primary School Head Teachers' Association. 'I would never expect a primary school to have a careers adviser or hold a careers convention and it would be wrong to give young children precise advice on their future careers but there is a no reason why we could not give them an awareness of the reality of the way the world works,' he said.
John Coe, of the National Association of Primary Eduction, was more sceptical. 'An over-early approach to anything like careers guidance could be damaging to the free-ranging mind of a child, which is what we want to encourage; we want young children to imagine and to have dreams,' he said.
My first impression was one of suspicion, based largely on how long it seems to take many people to find anything resembling a career path even after having ample access to job information. To my recollection, a good number of my classmates at the undergraduate university level still had very little idea what they wanted to do with their lives...and I have a tough time believing that they didn't have a pretty good idea what choices were realistically available.
But then, what if a more realistic set of options earlier on could help students to better evaluate those options for the future? This could well be the case where the options are presented earlier both in time and in a child's development process. On added reflection, the idea seems to be one worth considering at the very least - particularly in its potential effect on students from more difficult backgrounds who may lack both positive role models, and a real sense of what types of careers are available.
This doesn't mean that creativity should be stifled in the least in early eduction...but instead, that creativity may be able to flourish all the more if students better understand the societal framework in which they operate. With that in mind, the British idea is one that we too should give some serious consideration.