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Career education and guidance in schools is most effective when it is seen as an essential component of the education a school provides for its students.

Building whole-school career education and guidance requires planning, co-ordination and buy-in from all staff. There are two aspects to consider:

  • establishing career education and guidance as a whole-school responsibility, and
  • supporting teachers to contribute to their students' career education.

Sharing responsibility

Establishing career education and guidance as a whole-school responsibility will be a new experience for many schools. It will challenge the concept that career education and guidance is the sole responsibility of the careers department and is likely to mean some significant changes for school managers, careers specialists, form teachers, classroom teachers and the community.

Engaging with the entire staff will ensure that teachers understand what career education and guidance is seeking to achieve in their school. It will help them to understand and feel supported in their role in improving outcomes for students.

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Incorporating career education and guidance into school structures

Staff providing pastoral care are ideally placed to assist students to plan their learning and career pathways.

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Making career education a part of classroom learning

Study that is linked to life beyond school takes on greater relevance for students.

“We wanted to transform outcomes for students so we had to transform the way the school works. We see ourselves as a restorative school. We are building lives. Part of that is early intervention and real engagement with families, but we knew we had to rethink our approach to relationship building in the school. Thinking through how we should do career education and guidance gave us the impetus to overhaul the pastoral care system and the way we connect with parents.

We made learning and career planning the core of our pastoral care. We have vertical whānau. Whānau teachers are career mentors. Students, whānau staff and parents build relationships throughout the year and over the years. Their whole focus is career development. In fact every teacher is a career mentor, but whānau teachers have a specific ongoing role. Students and whānau teachers keep a running dialogue and a record of what they plan to do, what they’ve done, what they’ve achieved, personally and in terms of qualifications. We call our learning and career planning Pathways. It covers self-awareness and developing personal skills, gathering information and exploring opportunities.

We also rethought how to engage parents, caregivers and whānau in their children’s education. We sent personal invitations for meetings at specific times and made it clear that it was the student’s future we were interested in. Parent involvement at meetings went from 32% to 81%. In the past it's been a challenge to engage with our Māori and Pacific families, so that was an amazing result.

All teachers have a wider perspective of the whole life of every student. Teacher morale is up. They have a renewed sense of purpose.

There are many other indicators of success. Suspensions fell by 80% and year 9 to 13 retention increased. We had 60% turnover, so many students coming and going, but there’s been a 70% reduction in students changing schools.

Our focus is building lives. We now have a system in place to make it happen. Teachers, parents and students are far more engaged with learning and with each other.”

Principal, One Tree Hill College

At the time of this report, 20% of the students at One Tree Hill College were Māori and 37% Pasifika.

Published on: 04 Aug 2009