School careers shift confirmed

7th April 2006 at 01:00
Careers Scotland is finally to be detached from the troubled Scottish Enterprise agency, as disclosed in The TES Scotland on March 10.

Nicol Stephen, Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister, made the announcement last week and said the change would take effect from April next year.

Mr Stephen signalled that careers staff would be expected to work more closely with secondary schools, particularly leavers who are at risk of joining the NEET group (not in education, employment or training).

The move to align the careers service more closely with schools rather than business is understood to have the strong backing of Peter Peacock, Education Minister, although Mr Stephen made it clear there was no intention of changing Careers Scotland's remit of acting as an all-age guidance service.

No decision has yet been taken on whether the organisation will move into the arms of another agency - Learndirect Scotland would be the obvious choice - or go it alone as one of Scotland's largest quangos with a budget of almost Pounds 60 million and around 1,100 staff.

The Scottish Executive is to hold consultations on this, although Christina Allon, director of Careers Scotland in the southern half of the country, hinted in her welcome for the move that she would prefer an independent existence. "We believe that Careers Scotland is of sufficient scale and maturity to have its autonomy," Mrs Allon said.

In his statement, Mr Stephen made no attempt to hide his view that Careers Scotland had not been a success as part of Scottish Enterprise, in contrast to its northern counterpart which will remain within Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The Executive's decision seems to have won broad support. Alex Neil, convener of the Scottish Parliament's enterprise committee, recalled that he had warned Wendy Alexander, the then Enterprise Minister, that she was making a mistake when she established Careers Scotland as part of the enterprise agency.

While Jack Perry, chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, was seen as the leading advocate for parting company with Careers Scotland, he paid fulsome tribute to the "huge advances" it had made as part of the agency.

"From the cluttered landscape of 67 different organisations that came together in 2002, we now have a single cohesive organisation delivering a consistent set of products, services, working practices and quality standards across the country," Mr Perry said.

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