Careers Education and Guidance

Merchiston careers ed

It is often said that the purpose of education is to prepare pupils for the next step of their journey. In a fast paced world, in terms of technological advancement and changes to both education and the world of employment, it is perhaps more apt to say that it should prepare our pupils for the challenges of adapting to, and the shaping of, this world.

Developing this adaptability requires both an educational element: providing an environment in which self-awareness can be developed, leading to a focus on developing a range of transferable skills and attributes; and a guidance element: being aware of the choices to be made at each stage of education, having good quality information to hand to aid this, and the implications of the choices made.

As such, the main aim of Careers Education and Guidance at Merchiston is to enable our boys to make informed choices at relevant stages.  At the core of this lies the development of transferable skills and attributes relevant to lifelong learning and career progression.

Year group details

The information below provides an overview of the education and guidance in each year group.

Second Form (Year 7)

Careers education and guidance at this stage is focused purely on skills and attributes in an informal manner through the tutorial system.  Areas focused on include learning styles, target setting, self-evaluation and having an appreciation of the skills that classmates have.

Third Form (Year 8)

Many of the aspects covered in Year 7 are revisited here, but the concept of careers awareness is introduced through “work-away day”, where pupils are encouraged to spend one day at the work place of a relative or friend.  Presentation skills are further developed through feeding back on this experience.  Development of organisation, time management and learning skills are given even greater importance due to the full diet of exams in this year group.

Fourth Form (Year 9)

Self-evaluation and target-setting have greater prominence this year.  With GCSEs to be chosen at the end of this year, the importance of self-awareness and at least a sense of direction are obvious.  This is where the first real elements of careers guidance come into play, with subject choice discussions taking place in tutorials.  Pupils are also provided with a GCSE subject choice booklet which outlines each subject area.  The input from tutors and other key contacts, coupled with parental discussions, enables the boys to make informed decisions on their subject choices.

Shell (Year 10)

The development of skills and attributes continues on from Year 9.  With formal mock GCSE exams at the end of this year there is, of course, an increasing emphasis on exam technique, time management and organisation.  Other less concrete attributes are touched upon, such as “the influence of mind set on learning”.

A “Careers speed dating” event in the Autumn Term sees a number of Merchistonians returning to have rapid-fire discussions about their career areas.  The boys are encouraged to guess the career of those that they are speaking to by asking open-ended questions.  The main aim here is simply to raise awareness of a variety of careers areas.

The Summer Term brings the Cambridge Occupational Analysts (COA) Preview and Profile assessments.  These assess each individual’s interests and abilities in several key cognitive areas.  Further information on these can be found at and or by contacting

Fifth Form (Year 11)

Along with a continued focus on exam technique and learning skills, formal careers education and guidance is a priority in this year.  Each individual has a discussion with the Head of Careers, during which interests are explored and feedback from the COA assessments is given.  The discussion is focused on career areas of interest—as identified by the individual and the COA feedback—and identifying areas to be investigated, as well as touching on potential A level programmes.

Pupils in this year group also have access to Career Cafes and a Career Fair in school. (see tab below).

Lower Sixth (Year 12)

There is a continued emphasis on the investigation of interests identified in Year 11.  In addition to this, advice is given on how to complete application forms and how to write cover letters and an effective CV.  This is in preparation for the work experience period (see tab below) which occurs towards the end of the Summer Term.

Thoughts turn to university destinations and courses, and this year group undertake Centigrade assessments ( under the guidance of the Universities Adviser to help to focus this process.

Pupils in this year group continue to have access to Career Cafes and a Career Fair in school, as well as being made increasingly aware of external opportunities.

Upper Sixth (Year 13)

This is, obviously, a crucial year academically, and so the emphasis here is on guidance rather than education, and includes raising awareness of relevant opportunities relating to work experience, internships or GAP years.

This year group attend a Higher Education conference in the Autumn Term under the guidance of the Universities Adviser, and the focus at this time is on UCAS applications with tutors and many others supporting and feeding into this process as applicable.

Guidance is provided post-exams on how to make the most of the first year at University, including the importance of continued work experience and development of skills and attributes.

Work experience

Work experience has always been valuable for the awareness of career areas it brings and for the skills it helps to develop.  There is, however, another dimension to it which is becoming increasingly important: it is estimated that approximately 37% of graduate vacancies with the Top 100 graduate employers were filled by candidates with some experience in the company (

Work experience is undertaken by all at the end of Year 12, with a small number taking part in a placement at the end of Year 11.  The range of experiences last year was wide, including Medicine, Architecture, Engineering, Business, Finance, Politics and Retail.

Careers Cafés and Careers Fair

Careers Cafes offer the opportunity to discuss career areas with a visiting professional.  These are open to all in Years 11 to 13, but are often primarily targeted at small groups using information gathered from the careers discussions in Year 11.  Visitors cover areas including Medicine, Finance/Accountancy, Engineering, Sport Science, Law and Journalism.

The Careers Fair takes place in the Lent Term, and aims to provide an opportunity for our boys, along with visiting schools, to meet representatives from a number of companies operating in areas of interest.  Support will be provided on how to get the most from this, i.e. effective targeting of companies with probing questions prepared in advance.

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