Crucial place of face-to-face

Derek Cheyne

In response to your article "More careers advisers to be placed in schools" (29 June), the Unison SDS branch, representing over 70 per cent of the agency's careers guidance professionals, feels teaching professionals should be concerned about the effects changes to the Careers Management Skills framework will have on their profession and their pupils.

While our members see the merits of a national CMS framework, they have concerns about its implementation and implications for the current universal entitlement of pupils to receive high-quality guidance. In particular, they are concerned that the framework is being used by SDS because of budgetary difficulties and front-line staffing cuts.

In many schools, the new academic term will see an over-promotion of web- based and telephone services and a reduction of face-to-face interventions to only those viewed as "in need". It is unacceptable to our members that many pupils will be denied face-to-face guidance and need to make do with a web-based or telephone service, unless their parents or guidance staff demand an interview.

Members also fear the CMS is based on huge assumptions - for example, the success of Curriculum for Excellence and the ability of young people to navigate online and self-assess the CMS competencies. Young people are familiar with computers, but much of this is to access social networks and messaging.

Finally, academics responding to the CMS framework highlighted concerns that teachers would find it hard to deliver many of the CMS assessments without additional training and support materials.

The CMS framework cannot become a Careers Education Programme, handed over to hard-pressed teachers who are expected to deliver the competencies as part of their teaching duties.

With high levels of youth unemployment, it is important that young people have access to high-quality support. The introduction of the CMS framework should not be used to deny them face-to-face advice and guidance.

SDS will argue that the introduction of the CMS framework is part of a modernisation agenda to ensure that clients have access to an appropriate blend of services. Both teaching and careers guidance professionals should be concerned that a system based on pupil self-assessment and teacher assessment will determine their ability to receive a face-to-face interview with a careers guidance professional.

Derek Cheyne, Unison SDS Branch Secretary.

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Derek Cheyne

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