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Careers Education & Guidance

Careers News

Merchiston Castle School Staff Conversations

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 your son 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 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.

Dr D Cartwright  Academic Leadership Team

The main aim of Careers Education and Guidance at Merchiston is to enable your son to make informed choices at relevant stages.  At the core of this lies the development of skills and attributes relevant to lifelong learning and career progression.


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 skills, 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 your son will be encouraged to spend one day at the work place of a relative or friend, and “Careers Week”, during which your son will hear from a range of visiting professionals. 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 and with members of the Academic Leadership Team.  Your son is also provided with a GCSE subject choice booklet which outlines each subject area.  The input from tutors and other key contacts, coupled with conversation with you, enables you and your son to make informed decisions on 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”.

The Summer Term brings the Cambridge Occupational Analysts (COA) Preview and assessment.  This assesses your son’s interests at this point, and then suggests career areas which might be of interest as a discussion starter.  Further information on this can be found at or by contacting

Your son will also have access to Career Cafes and a Career Fair in school.

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.  Your son will have 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 your son and the COA feedback—and identifying areas to be investigated, as well as touching on potential A level programmes.

Your son will also have access to Career Cafes and a Career Fair in school.

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 any work experience placements which may take place during any of the holiday periods. Although we cannot set these placements up for your son, we can help with every stage of applying and preparing for these.

Thoughts turn to university destinations and courses, and your son will discuss initial ideas with his Tutor under the guidance of the Universities Adviser.

Your son will 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.

Your son will 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 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 noted that many of the  Top 100 graduate employers would be unlikely to employ an individual with no prior work experience (

Work experience is routinely undertaken over the summer between Years 12 and 13, with a small number taking part in a placement at the end of Year 11. Although we cannot set these placements up for your son, we can help with every stage of applying and preparing for these.

Careers Cafés and Careers Convention

Careers Cafes offer your son the opportunity to discuss career areas with a visiting professional.  These are open to all in Years 10 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 Merchiston Careers Convention takes place in the Lent Term, and aims to provide your son with the opportunity 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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