Finding a common language

Sally Wells, managing director of Thomas Education, explains why psychometric assessments are a valuable tool for schools

There is no doubt that a huge amount of fantastic work is being done to provide impartial careers advice that is relevant for today’s employment market. Careers Week in March highlighted some of the country’s progress in this area, but could we be doing more to help young people?

I have been working with teenagers for the last five years, helping them to bridge the gap between education and work, most recently as managing director of Thomas Education. Thomas psychometric assessments have been used in the business world for 30 years and are now being used to great effect in schools across the country. Whereas traditional career guidance provides basic support on CV writing and interview skills, I feel it can often fail to make the final link between education and work. We need to help people understand themselves, how to talk about their strengths and what actions they need to take to gain employment or what to study in further education.

In the business world, psychometric assessments are used for the recruitment, development and management of staff. At the heart of it, though, they are used to get a much better understanding of an individual, help that individual understand themselves and therefore how they can be motivated, managed, their communications preference, how they handle stress and their role in relationships. How great would it be if our young people had that level of self-awareness?

Psychometric assessments can be used with young people for career guidance and to support students with behavioural challenges. Woodhouse Grove School near Leeds, West Yorkshire has been using a psychometric assessment called PPA as part of its career programme to prepare students for life beyond school. The assessment can help students pinpoint their strengths, key skills and give them the words to describe themselves for CVs, personal statements and applications. The assessment feedback reports coupled with careers advice based on real experience of the working world has resulted in meaningful, focused and tailored-made guidance. The aim was to help students understand themselves better, inspire them and also to encourage them to do their own career research. Following the use of psychometric assessments, 100 per cent of students found work experience themselves rather than relying on school support compared to 83 per cent pre-assessments.

When dealing with challenging student behaviour, psychometric assessments can play a different but equally, if not more important role. St Benedict’s Catholic School in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk found they had a dramatic fall in the number of negative referrals and pupils being removed from class following an assessment project. The aim of the project was to make students more self-aware and take more personal responsibility for their behaviour.


Exclusion and referral rates at St Benedict’s Catholic School, pre- and post project


Number pre-project

Number post-project

External exclusions



Internal exclusions



Removal from class



Negative referrals



Positive referrals




The assistant head teacher at St Benedict’s believes the improvement in behaviour is as a direct result of the psychometric assessments they used. He believes the reports provided a common language between educationalists and students, allowing students to talk in real terms about themselves. This enabled a more realistic dialogue between the parties than would previously have been possible. The most impressive outcome was the improvement in GCSE results, with St Benedict’s achieving its best set of GCSE results ever following the use of psychometric assessments.

My view is that it is our job to arm young people with all the tools each individual needs to move into the world of work. Good exam results will only get them so far so it is critical to provide more relevant support. As of December last year, government figures stated almost a million of our young people were unemployed (917,000). Competition for jobs and apprenticeships is rife. Young people need to be able to sell themselves, and to do that, they need to understand themselves and be given the words that resonate in the world of work.

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