All work and no play could be leaving GCSE and A level students ill equipped for the future

New research reveals over half of 15-17 year olds think school work must come before everything else, yet business leaders advocate a more rounded approach to preparing for the workplace

•  A new intergenerational study shows that for 76% of 15-17 year olds, studying hard for good exam results is their biggest priority for the coming year; and they are preparing to sacrifice friendships, family time, hobbies and even sleep to achieve this,
•   In fact 57% of 15-17 year olds feel school work must come before anything else if they want to do well in the future
•   And only 39% of this age group think being happy is more important than good grades
•   Yet half (51%) of UK business leaders calls on teens to develop broader life/work skills before leaving education

A new report launched today by National Citizen Service (NCS) reveals that the UK¹s 15-17 year olds feel under significant pressure to excel in exams at the expense of other life skills, experiences, healthy relationships and even their own happiness, suggesting that they are struggling to juggle the demands of young adulthood.

The research also shows that half of British parents believe their child should put school or college work before everything else if they want to do well in the future.  Only 13% of parents think their child spending time on hobbies and non-school interests is of importance at this stage, and just 12% think they should prioritise taking part in activities to help them develop practical skills for the future.Image removed.

Yet 70% of UK business leaders state that many of the skills needed to do well at work are not taught in the classroom and their top advice to teens is to try to achieve a healthy balance between study and socialising (42%).

The study, which polled 1,000 15-17 year olds and 1,000 parents with children of the same age, as well as 100 senior business leaders, shows that the pursuit of good grades is affecting the ability of teens to spend time developing important skills which could be of benefit in later life. This is backed up by the views of British business leaders, 67% of whom said they believe that younger employees come into the workplace lacking some of the necessary skills, such as time management and team working abilities.

Image removed.Dr David Docherty, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business, said: "Employment has changed and very few people take jobs for life in the same business. So, getting on in the world involves team-playing, creativity, risk-taking and inventiveness. Young people need time to develop these skills during school and university years and gaining work experience whilst at school is a great preparation for a 21st century career."

Business leaders interviewed ranked the following skills as most important for junior members of staff to develop:
• Time management  45%
•  Prioritisation 39%
•  Social skills 39%
• Team work  38%
• Communication skills 38%

Natasha Kizzie, Director of Marketing at NCS Trust, says:  ³Doing well at school is of course immensely important for young people¹s futures, not just in terms of grades but in learning how to apply themselves to an activity, to prioritise effectively and to commit to seeing tasks through. But while it¹s essential that parents and teachers instil an understanding of the value of hard work for later success in life, it¹s concerning that so many parents and teenagers are failing to recognise the importance of developing a healthy balance between school work and other activities that can develop broader skills for work and independent living.

With nearly two thirds (63%) of 15-17 year olds saying they would look to their parents for advice if they were struggling to cope with balancing
school work and socialising/time for themselves, there is added pressure on parents to help guide their teens through these challenging years. And as we are hearing from businesses, there are many skills which parents need to encourage their teens to develop, to give them the best chance of securing jobs in an increasingly competitive market.

This is why NCS is launching this campaign in the hope of highlighting the importance of trying to find a good life balance at an early age.  We aim to provide parents with expert tips and advice on how to help their teens achieve this, and ask that schools and colleges promote the NCS autumn programme this October to encourage their students to have interests outside of school or college where they can develop crucial life skills.²Image removed.

The research is being released by NCS as the new academic year starts and 15-17 year olds are beginning GCSE or AS/A level programmes of study.   A time when, shockingly, 28% of this age group say they feel anxious or nervous about the coming academic year.  One in ten girls (10%) feel scared and just 13% of 15-17 year olds feel optimistic about the year ahead. Even parents are worrying ­ 28% feel anxious about tackling the new academic year and only 11% feel well prepared.

These conclusions are supported by the findings of a longitudinal study of young people published by the Department for Education (DfE), which identified that Year 10 students (14-15 year olds) in 2014 held a distinctly Œwork focused¹ attitude, more so than that held by their counterparts in 2005. The DfE paper also indicates that the mental wellbeing of the students surveyed ­ particularly that of girls ­ had worsened over the 10 year period.

Places are currently available for 16-17 year olds to experience NCS  ­ one unmissable week this Autumn across England and Northern Ireland ­ and develop their teamwork, leadership and communications skills before they start applying for jobs or submitting their UCAS application.  To find out more information or sign up visit