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Broadening minds to a life beyond A-levels

Providing careers libraries has always been a problem. Elaine Carlton looks at how one area copes.

There is no problem with funding for careers guidance at Melbourn Village College for 11 to 16-year-olds in Cambridgeshire. The difficulty here is the total lack of interest from pupils.

"It is very difficult to interest children in anything other than A-levels, " said Chris Davies, key stage 4 co-ordinator, who took charge of the careers library three years ago.

"All they think about is what they'll do from 16-18 and they are not planning to get a job, so getting them to be broad-minded about their future is very difficult."

Funding comes from the college and Cambridgeshire Careers Guidance. For every Pounds 250 the school can provide for its careers programme, CCG provides another Pounds 500 which goes towards staff time and materials. The children also receive support from a trained librarian, an information technology technician and a careers guidance adviser.

The most popular material in the careers library is the range of prospectuses for post-16 colleges. Over half the school's pupils went on to a sixth-form college last year, while another fifth went to Cambridge Regional College.

The school's 600 pupils also benefit from a video machine and four computers. Videos on interviewing skills, and computer programmes such as Kudos and Explorer which give a selection of potential jobs, are provided. CCG pays regular visits to the school to tell teachers which materials need updating.

An evaluation of Year 11, however, revealed that last year only 13 of 103 pupils found careers publications helped them in their post-16 choices. Meanwhile, many said that their Year 10 individual interview with the careers adviser was influential in their future.

Pupils are introduced to the careers library in Year 9, but the school has launched a personal learning programme which forces children to look at possible careers and come up with short-term targets. One pupil, who lists his favourite hobby as playing the electric guitar, resolved in his programme to continue with his guitar lessons and go to university to study music. Following the introduction of the programmes this year, the librarian noticed that she received 20 enquiries about careers materials from Year 9s compared with none in 1996. The success of the experiment has persuaded teachers to introduce the careers library to Year 8s from September.

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