New careers service 'is failing schools'

2nd May 2003 at 01:00
SCOTLAND'S education authorities claim the new careers service is at risk of failing schools.

In highly critical findings, a survey of 18 of the 32 authorities reveals deep misgivings about the direction of Careers Scotland, which is part of the networks run by Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

A report on the survey, by the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, says Careers Scotland is so preoccupied with its own internal discussions and structures that it is neglecting the delivery of the service. It also complains about faulty consultations and communications going directly to schools, bypassing the authorities.

"There is a growing worry that the Careers Scotland agenda is separate from the schools agenda and that it is enterprise-focused rather than education-focused," the report states.

The association wants to meet officials from the Scottish Executive's enterprise and lifelong learning department and from Careers Scotland to discuss the way ahead.

John Mulgrew of East Ayrshire, the ADES representative on the advisory board of Careers Scotland, commented: "We recognise it's early days for the organisation but we have now reached the stage where we are looking for more positive action. We want to be constructive in trying to make Careers Scotland a more effective organisation than it is at present."

Careers Scotland has only been in existence for a year and is charged by ministers with developing an all-age guidance service for the first time, widely acknowledged to be an ambitious and complex undertaking. But some education directors fear this has led to a lessening of the commitment to schools.

The organisation's structure on the ground has also come in for criticism.

The senior careers official with responsibility for East Ayrshire, for example, also has to cover North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire and Dumfries and Galloway - "a tough call", as Mr Mulgrew described it.

Money previously available to education authorities from education-business partnerships (EBPs) appears to have disappeared as the partnerships were absorbed into Careers Scotland, the ADES claims.

Directors also complain that the agency now charges for education-industry links and the administration of work experience. "The future of work experience as a consistent national entitlement may be in danger," the ADES report states. Fears for the future of Young Enterprise were also expressed.

The survey found "a persistent concern" about the lack of accountability of Careers Scotland at education authority level.

The organisation is currently conducting a "stakeholders' survey".

WHAT MORE CAN WE DO?

Christina Allon, director of Careers Scotland in the Scottish Enterprise area, said it had "much positive feedback" in its first year, which saw 67 organisations subsumed within it.

On the detailed ADES criticisms, she said:

* Responsibility for work experience rests with education authorities but individual authorities had different education-business partnership arrangements, not all of which were cost-free.

* Supporting schools with world of work and enterprise activities is a core part of Careers Scotland's business.

* Partnership agreements have been negotiated with every secondary school, each of which has a named careers adviser.

* A new package of career education materials is about to be dispatched to schools.

* Careers Scotland meets with the ADES on a quarterly basis.

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