Having just recently received their eagerly awaited GCSE and A Level results, many students are embarking on the next ‘chapter’ of their lives. I’m reminded of what Sharon Witherspoon, Acting Head of Policy for the Campaign for Social Sciences spoke about at the OCR Spring Forum - the importance of “pathways to social science” for students throughout their educational careers.
Studying a social science - where will this lead me?
Sharon noted that students face tough choices in an “increasingly complicated and pressured world”, ones that, due to popular misconceptions, could dissuade them from pursuing social science at higher levels. She took the opportunity to lay to rest certain myths surrounding future prospects for graduates, emphasising the intellectual and analytical skills acquired from solid social science training. “Social scientists don’t just go on to be academics or teachers or to take up roles in government”, she said. “They go on to pursue careers in business, or as clinical psychologists, market researchers, town planners, and other fields partly because of what they’ve learned in social science content, and partly because of what they’ve learned in skills. Social science gives you a broad skills base.”
It is because of this broad skills base that social scientists are making critical contributions to fields as diverse as health, climate change and law because they are “able to understand both the individual and larger social aspects of these issues, such as how to build communities and what sorts of social structural changes need to take place in order to bring about positive societal improvements.”
Sharing ideas and knowledge at the OCR Sociology and Psychology Forum
The Campaign for Social Science wants to help support social science pathways and raise awareness of the wide range of options open to you if you follow a social sciences route. We also want to strengthen the social sciences by bringing together academic, researcher and practitioner social scientists - that is why we were very happy to sponsor the OCR Sociology and Psychology Consultative Spring Forum. It was an opportunity to look at how sociology and psychology were being taught in schools, while also assessing the strengths of social science and how its range of methodologies are an invaluable asset to students at all levels.
At the forum, there were several thought provoking psychological and sociological studies, showcasing the breadth of analytical and interpretative skills possessed by social scientists that Sharon had outlined earlier in the day. The first study explored the impact of paid work - supported by tax credits - on family life and living standards for lone mothers and their children who had previously been receiving out of work benefits. There were discussions based on current crime statistics with a particular focus on women as criminal offenders, while another study looked at how humans perceive close relationships at different times in their lives, such as the links and disconnects between a child and a parent during childhood and adulthood. The deficit model of childhood was discussed and critiqued with a suggestion that children in fact shape and play a role in shaping society. Another study analysed how different personality traits of Dark Triads are expressed in varying contexts, especially in the willingness to engage in romantic revenge.
The day asserted the strength and value of a solid social science background. It made the case that through concerted skills development that begins at school, social science methodologies and expertise can and will continue to play an important role outside academia, in fields as diverse as policy, government, policing, social work, marketing, business, healthcare and beyond. The Campaign and OCR have worked together to produce two posters based on real life case studies offering examples of careers that may follow on from studying sociology or psychology.
In the meantime, I hope for many students who have achieved a GCSE or A Level in a social science subject this year, they have enjoyed their studies and this is just the start of an exciting social science journey that could lead to a variety of destinations!
Read more about Sharon Witherspoon’s talk.
The Campaign for Social Science is excited to be attending OCR’s November forum which is part of the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences 2016 – celebrating the social sciences!
Alessandro Lanuto - Communications Manager for the Academy of Social Sciences
Alessandro Lanuto is the Communications Manager for the Academy of Social Sciences and its Campaign for Social Science. The Campaign was launched to raise the profile of social science in the public, media and Parliament.