Speakers for Schools aims to mitigate inequalities between state and independent school outcomes through a range of initiatives, one of which is its Inspiration programme. This intervention brings influential speakers to state secondary schools with the goal of inspiring pupils and providing them with useful career advice. This is to ensure that pupils in the state system do not miss out on opportunities to interact with and benefit from the guidance of inspiring professionals relative to their independent school peers. This report builds the economic case for the delivery of this programme by calculating its potential monetary benefit and comparing this with the cost of its delivery.

The key findings are:

• Building on evidence from research linking career talks in school and wages at age 26, it is estimated that students who participate in career talks during Year 10 enjoy a wage premium of 0.4% over similar peers who do not attend such talks.

• If the Inspiration programme has a similar impact on earnings, then this could mean an average uplift in cumulative pay up to the age of 26 of around £320 for each pupil.

• For an average state-funded secondary classroom size of 28 in 2021, this amounts to a cumulative benefit of nearly £9,000 per class.

• The study’s scenarios suggest that the Inspiration programme would need to deliver just 9% of these wage benefits to outweigh the costs.

• If pupils benefiting from the Inspiration programme enjoy just half of the potential gains associated with career talks that have been identified in previous research, the programme would deliver £3.6 million in the form of increased wages up to the age of 26 for each cohort in question.

Overall, the findings show that the Inspiration programme has potential to be cost-effective. While this core conclusion does not change with varying underlying assumptions - i.e., on the number of pupils benefitting from the intervention and on the proportion of the wage uplift enjoyed by participants - the wide range on each of these key assumptions makes it necessary to consider a potential range of monetary benefits, rather than pinpoint an exact number.

An important caveat to note is that the findings of the underlying research linking career talks to increased wages, which forms the basis of this analysis, shows a consistent wage uplift attributed to speaker talks for Year 10 pupils, but not for Year 11 pupils. In Year 11, a wage premium was observed only for pupils who rated talks as being 'very helpful'. While this is likely due to the fact that in this particular year group there are significant competing demands on pupils' attention and focus related to exam preparation - and only very carefully crafted talks would occupy pupils' attention enough have a lasting impact - the lack of consistent evidence for pupils just one year older suggests that the findings should be interpreted with some degree of caution.

Despite the limitations, this study adds to a wider body of evidence demonstrating a positive relationship between career talks and pupil outcomes. There may be wider social benefits too. Providing state school pupils’ better access to professional networks and career information could help narrow existing gaps in their aspirations and eventual outcomes compared to independent school pupils.

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