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En route to a career

A secondary in the east end of Glasgow has enhanced its pupils' employment prospects

SMITHYCROFT SECONDARY in the east end of Glasgow has achieved the remarkable feat this year of a zero unemployment rate among its school-leavers.

Only three years ago, 31 per cent of school-leavers were without a job; two years ago, the figure was 17 per cent; last year it was slashed to 6 per cent; and this year not a single pupil went straight into unemployment.

Out of 112 school-leavers, only four were unavailable for work. One cannot be traced, and the other three can't work because of personal circumstances such as pregnancy or illness.

The destination statistics for the school are impressive: higher education 11 per cent, further education 25 per cent, training 34 per cent, employment 26 per cent.

John Dickson, deputy head at Smithycroft with responsibility for "world of work", said: "In August or September, there used to be a wheen of kids at the school gate waiting for their pals.

"That doesn't happen any more. That's got to be good."

The school recently won the education prize at the Careers Scotland Excellence Awards for its success in integrating career planning into every aspect of school life - work which helped in the dramatic reduction in the number of its leavers who miss out on jobs or further learning.

The school has widened the vocational options it offers through Glasgow City Council's vocational programme and FE college access for S3 and S4 pupils.

But it has also involved its feeder primaries in career-related planning as part of its early intervention approach and works with parents in the associated nurseries trying to introduce them to employment. Careers Scotland staff support the school's visits to pupils who are not at school.

Careers Scotland staff Wendy O'Neill and Gillian McCann run programmes such as Activate, which identifies youngsters about to leave school who are potentially Neet (not in education, employment or training) and gives them activities to improve their job-seeking skills and build up their confidence.

A key worker supports them in their job or college placement so that, if they do "fall off the wagon", there is someone there to help them get back on again.

Once a month, Smithycroft's pastoral care and support for learning teams meet the principal teacher for "world of work" to discuss individual pupils and their career plans.

Careers officers also participate in those meetings as part of the efforts to identify those pupils who need extra support.

Mr Dickson said: "We've got a few kids now who would have been unemployed in the past but who have gone on to good training courses. Some of these are supported training places where the kids get great support."

This year, the figures for HE are down and for FE up, but he sees that as a seasonal variation.

Smithycroft is not alone in improving its school-leaver destination figures. Glasgow is improving overall, but its east end schools are doing particularly well.

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