What are the lasting impacts of school days?

Cheerful school students

BCS70 has shown that if children feel interested and involved at school, they are more likely to rate themselves as good communicators, team players and problem solvers at work, years later.

Researchers looked at how being engaged at school can benefit people in the long term.

They discovered this was one of the keys not only to gaining academic qualifications but also to other positive outcomes in adult life, including developing important workplace skills and earning more money.

What we asked you

When you were 16, we asked you questions about your attitude towards school, for example whether you liked school, or whether you found it difficult to focus on your work.

In the Age 34 Survey, we asked you how well you felt you did at work at communicating with others, working in a team, learning new skills and problem solving.

Researchers analysed your answers to these questions along with information about the qualifications you’d achieved by age 34 and what you did for a living and your income at ages 34 and 46.

What the research found

The researchers found that those of you who felt more engaged at school at age 16 were more likely to have gone on to gain higher level qualifications. This group also tended to rank their teamwork and communication skills at work more highly than those who had been less engaged.

When it came to problem solving and learning new skills at work, being engaged at school was important for this, along with other factors, including how well you’d done in the cognitive tasks we’d asked you to complete at age 16.

There’s more to earning more

Being more engaged at school did seem to lead to higher income and higher status jobs at age 34. And while school engagement did still benefit people’s earning 30 years later at age 46, this wasn’t the most important factor influencing your income. Instead, gender had a bigger impact, with men tending to earn more at this age.

Why this research matters

This research shows that engagement at school can have positive benefits throughout life and is connected to gaining higher educational qualifications, more workplace skills, and higher salaries. The implication is that efforts should be made to encourage engagement with school among children and teenagers – particularly those from groups who typically engage less – boys and those from less well-off backgrounds.

At the same time, this research shows that engagement at school is not the whole story. For example, though girls are more likely to be more engaged at school, this does not translate into higher earnings for women.

Read the full research report

The long-term benefits of adolescent school engagement for adult educational and employment outcomes by Jennifer Symonds, Giulio D’Urso and Ingrid Schoon.