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Careers Education School Attachment Project

Diploma in Careers Guidance, College of Guidance Studies, Swanley

Cole Davis

The aim of the project

The aim of the project was to look at the practice of action planning
in the school (if any), examine any issues arising, and identify steps
that could be taken to enhance practice.

About the school

The school was grant)maintained and located in a largely affluent area,
however the intake also included a particularly disadvantaged housing
estates.  Students were, therefore, drawn from a variety of

As the school held Technology Status, 30% of the intake had
demonstrated an aptitude for science and technology.  Further selection
was based on aptitude in music (10%) and drama (5%), and those with a
brother or sister in the school or parents teaching in the borough. 
Once these places had been allocated eligibility was governed by the
distance prospective pupils' lived from the school.

A definition of action planning

Action planning may be defined as "..the process by which students
review the present, set goals for the future and identify strategies
by which the goals can be achieved" (MacDonald, p28, 1995).  The
process of action planning during which skills including planning,
decision)making, target)setting and reviewing as well as qualities such
as self)awareness, are fostered, is recognised to be the most valuable
aspect of the exercise ) more so than the outcome (in terms of an
action plan) (Squirrell, 1995).  Good practice places students at the
centre of the process: "It is a personal process in which pupils are
the drivers rather than the passengers" (DfEE, p5. 1996).

Examination of current practice and problems/issued identified

Action planning was found to take place in the school.  It occurred in
patches, however, as a tool in certain circumstances as follows:

On entering the VIth form students completed an action plan with
the assistance of their tutor.  During the sessions a series of
pre)set questions was worked through relating to all areas of
school life, both academic and non)academic, and goals and targets
set.  The Deputy Head of the VIth identified the primary aim of
the service as preparation to complete an effective UCAS form. 
For example a student who could show no evidence of team)work
might set the target of taking up a team sport.  There were no
formal review sessions until the start of the next year.

Students on the one year VIth form course studying for a City and
Guilds Combined Studies course had twice)termly action planning
sessions, focusing on the planning and content of their work,
where they could discuss their progress in detail, as well as any
issues outside school.  The students on this course were the less
academically able students who had generally obtained a few low
grade GCSEs, and they also tended to be from more disadvantaged
backgrounds.  The use of action planning was due to the enthusiasm
for its benefits of their tutor (and teacher), who found it a very
valuable tool to support his students both academically and in a
pastoral sense.  Although he acknowledged it was a time)consuming
exercise,  he considered that it was a saving overall, as students
were applying the skills that had been overtly presented to them,
and were thus developing independence and effectiveness.  The
students also appeared to view the process positively.

The Pastoral Head of Year 10 advised that action planning was
successfully used as a means of modifying the behaviour of
students in specific circumstances.  For example, when a
particular student was consistently late for school and had failed
to respond to initial measures, a meeting was arranged between the
pastoral head of year, the student and his parents.  As a result
of their discussions an action plan was drawn up identifying
targets to meet the overall goal of prompt attendance.

Action planning was also witnessed as a compulsory part of the
Advanced GNVQ courses in Business and Media.  Students were
required to action plan their tasks for the coming week. 
Students' reactions to it varied: some found it a genuinely useful
exercise; for others it was a meaningless administrative chore.

Although not formally labelled as action planning, elements of the
process were present in the short self-assessments written by
students for inclusion in their Records of Achievement (the
school's version of the traditional report) that was sent to
parents annually.  They usually wrote a short paragraph describing
their progress in each subject and identifying how it could be
improved.  This would be then shown to the teacher in class (often
very quickly, in the midst of other tasks) who would comment,
suggesting amendments if s/he felt it necessary.

It is worth noting that nothing has been examined regarding the
relationship between the National Record of Achievement and action
planning, two areas that are compatible and usually closely related,
and the further relationship between these two areas and careers action
planning (as recommended in Better Choices).  This piece has instead
focused on a means of formalizing and practising the process of action
planning, based on what was observed whilst in the school.

Problems/Issues Identified and Recommended Course of Action

The issues arising from the practice of action planning may be divided
into two categories: operational and practice, although they are in
fact closely interlinked.

The key issue concerning practice appeared to be that students were not
gaining maximum benefit from the action planning exercises as they were
not explicitly made aware of the process and were thus unconscious of
the wider implications of the tasks they were doing, particularly with
regard to the self assessment sections of the school report and the
VIth form entry action plans.  The process of action planning was not
presented overtly and students therefore encountered it as several
closed, apparently unrelated activities.  Squirrel recommends that
students have "the rationale, process and outcomes of individual action
planning clearly explained" (p103, 1995).  Furthermore, she writes that
when considering the benefits of the process and its potential for
individual empowerment,

	".... part of the empowering quality is that it should be an
	 educative process.  It should allow young people to develop such
	 transferable competencies as time and personal management, the
	 skills to collect information and decision making." 


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