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It helps to plan ahead

Within two years, Smithycroft Secondary in Glasgow's East End, has helped slash unemployment among its school-leavers from 31 per cent in 2003 to just 6 per cent in 2005 by focusing more on the world of work.

Its decision to make career planning a core part of its curriculum won it the education prize in the first-ever Careers Scotland Excellence Awards.

The runners-up to Smithycroft in the education category were two other neighbouring secondaries - Eastbank Academy and St Andrew's Secondary - and Caddonfoot Primary in Galashiels.

John Dickson, deputy head at Smithycroft, said: "In the past, we were good at supporting kids, but maybe not focused enough on the end product. It's all very well getting Standard grades, but so many of these children are from families who for two or three generations have been unemployed. There is no one in their family who knows about the world of work. Our hope is that this is a regeneration."

Smithycroft has widened the range of vocational options it offers in recent years, including Glasgow City Council's vocational programme and FE college access for S3 and S4 pupils.

The school has involved its feeder primaries in career-related planning as part of its early intervention approach, and works with children's parents in the associated nurseries across the learning community, trying to introduce them to employment. Careers Scotland staff support the school's visits to parents who are not atschool.

Wendy O'Neill, who works in Careers Scotland's Parkhead office, is known to pupils by her first name and goes out of her way to chat to pupils in the corridor and in the library to build up their trust. Although not full-time in Smithycroft, she is regarded as part of the school by staff and pupils.

Gillian McCann, another Careers Scotland officer, runs the Activate programme, one of a number of Careers Scotland programmes covering all years. The programme identifies youngsters about to leave school who might have difficulty getting a job and gives them activities to improve their job-seeking skills and build their confidence.

Once a month, the school's pastoral care and support for learning teams meet the principal teacher for "world of work" to discuss individual pupils and their career plans. The Careers Scotland representatives also participate in those meetings as part of the efforts to identify those pupils who need extra input from the agency.

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