Work experience and work-related activities at schools and colleges

Year of Publication: 

This report is about the current provision and operational practice of work experience and work-related activities at schools and colleges in England.

This study, commissioned by the Department for Education, follows the publication of updated guidance for 16-19 study programmes (2015), which built on the work done following recommendations made in the Wolf review. The guidance advocates a period of work experience, or a more extended work placement, as a core part of programmes for all post-16 students, whether following an academic or a technical curriculum, in order to support them in developing their work readiness. Alongside the guidance for post-16 programmes, the government also revised its statutory guidance for schools, expecting schools to offer high quality work experience and encouraging them to engage fully with their local employer and professional community.


Schools and colleges offered a range of work-related activities, from careers events/ fairs to mock interviews and work experience placements. The majority of schools and colleges (63 per cent) also made provision for students with Special Educational Needs and/ or Disabilities (SEND), colleges in particular (82 per cent, compared to 66 per cent of schools without a sixth form and 58 per cent of schools with a sixth form). 56% of colleges offered Supported Internships compared to 21% of schools.

The duration, timing and content of work experience placements varied markedly between schools and colleges, and by the student’s programme of study. This was especially true of colleges where there was a distinction between technical and academic courses. Supported Internships had an average duration of 30 days.

The majority of schools and colleges offered work experience placements to all students (just 11 per cent of placements for years 10-11 and 23 per cent for years 12-13 were not open to all). Reported take-up of work experience placements varied according to the type of placement offered, but was highest for those in years 10-11 (88 per cent). Just 58 per cent of students offered Supported Internships took these opportunities up.

Students’ career ambitions were the primary consideration when matching students to work experience placements. However, not all schools/ colleges were able to meet this aim, primarily due to difficulties sourcing placements in certain employment sectors.

Most schools and colleges undertook post-placement activities with students and employers; 86 per cent of work experience coordinators said they assessed students’ performance, while 94 per cent reported undertaking follow-up activities with employers.