Access Keys:


Careers Education (CAEIG)


Access to high quality Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) is a learning entitlement of all of our pupils. The Careers Department in Down High School continues to develop a wide range of innovative strategies to encourage every pupil within our school community to take ownership of his / her own individual career plan. A dedicated Careers Team has been built up within the school and strong links have been forged with local employers, colleges and universities. We strive to help our pupils and their parents to make informed decisions about subject choices and future career pathways.

The Careers Team

Head of Department

Mr K Williamson

Careers Assistant Coordinator

Mrs K Calvert

Teacher in charge of Work Experience

Miss L Halligan

Careers Advisers

Mr J Gunson

Mrs R Adams

Mrs H McGuire

Mrs A Green

Mrs K Savage (DEL NI)

Mrs Eileen Arnold (DEL NI)

The Aims of the Careers Department

To enable our pupils to:

  • Make informed decisions about their future career pathways
  • Become more curious, strategic and informed about the opportunities beyond the school gate
  • Acquire a more expansive, creative and ambitious outlook when researching and developing a Personal Career Plan
  • Add value to their Personal Profile and effectively market themselves in oral, written and challenge-based contexts

To provide:

  • Information and guidance to pupils and parents in relation to subject choices, Further and Higher Education, and other leavers’ options
  • Training and practice in compiling CVs, Application Forms, Interview Skills and online UCAS Applications
  • Specific guidance for Medicine, Veterinary and Dentistry applicants and for Oxbridge and Trinity candidates
  • Additional support for students applying for highly competitive courses and courses that require a portfolio of work
  • Close cooperation with the SENCO to assist pupils who have additional learning needs
  • Information relating to student finance
  • A secure structure for Work Experience to be delivered in a meaningful manner
  • Up-to-date Labour Market Information
  • Advice and assistance to pupils, parents and teachers on careers related matters
  • Support for subject teachers to embed Employability across the curriculum

Each young person is entitled to the best possible Careers Education and Guidance. It can make the difference between a false start and a successful career.

(Better Choices, DfEE 1994)

Key Stage 3 (Yrs 8–10)

The Careers Programme in the Junior School is a key element of the Learning for Life and Work programme known as Employability. The Employability strand is taught in a 12-week course and deals with:

  • Introduction to Employability
  • Working in the Local and Global Community
  • Employability
  • Enterprise and Entrepreneurial Skills
  • Option Choices for KS4

The initial priority is to inform and excite pupils about the opportunities and challenges beyond the school gate, in the local and global economy. As we approach the key transition phase of Year 10 the focus shifts to helping pupils to make informed GCSE subject choices.

Key Stage 4 (Years 11 and 12)

The Careers Programme in the Middle School is also an element of the Learning for Life and Work programme known as Employability.

In Year 11 the course is 12 weeks long and deals with:

  • Introduction to Employability
  • Working in the Local and Global Community
  • Employability
  • Enterprise and Entrepreneurial Skills

In Year 12 the course is 20 weeks long and deals with:

  • Developing a Personal Career Plan
  • Identifying and developing qualities and skills (Personal Profiling)
  • Action Planning
  • Careers research
  • Matching Skill Profiles to jobs
  • Further and Higher Education
  • Routes of Entry
  • Option Choices for A-Levels, BTECs and further study
  • What employers want
  • CVs, Application Forms and interview skills
  • Business Plans

Sixth-Form (Years 13 and 14)

In Year 13, students receive two periods of Careers Education each week.

Year 13 students:

  • Research various third-level education options.

(These include: universities in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the USA and Continental Europe; Apprenticeships and Company School Leavers’ Programmes; Belfast Met and SERC; CAFRE; Institutes of Technology in the Republic of Ireland; Business Start-Ups; and Gap Years.)

  • Revise their CV
  • Prepare for a mock interview
  • Work with others in group work and Selection Day challenge activities
  • Research Labour Market Information (LMI)
  • Benefit from a wide range of visiting speakers
  • Formally plan and report on their work placement
  • Compose a Personal Statement
  • Receive training in applying through UCAS

Students have access to ongoing careers advice from Mrs Calvert, Mr Williamson, Mr Gunson and Mrs Adams. Prospective Oxbridge and Med/Dent/Vet candidates attend special tutorials led by Mrs Calvert. There is also additional support available for students applying for entry to other very competitive courses (including Teaching, Social Work, Nursing and Art College). Towards the end of the year, students begin their online UCAS Application and receive training in UCAS Apply.

In Year 14, students are given the opportunity to attend an Open Day at Queen’s University, Belfast. There are no designated Careers periods for this Year group. However, a team of over 20 UCAS Reference Writers has been trained to provide ongoing help and support for Year 14 students. These teacher mentors typically assist students who are applying for courses connected to their subject area. Mrs Calvert is available within the Careers Library (from 9:00–1:00 on most school days) to assist and guide both students and parents. She has amassed a formidable knowledge of the UCAS system. Mr Williamson and Mr Donnan are also on hand to provide ongoing support.

Work Experience

In Year 13, pupils are afforded the opportunity to sample the world of work. This placement provides a worthwhile insight into a working environment and also fosters greater understanding between school and businesses. Pupils observe working relationships and structures in action. This is an essential element to successful Career Planning. Miss Halligan organises a team of staff to visit or phone placement providers to monitor and assess progress. Students keep a diary of their work placement and write a report when they return to school.

Mock Interview Evening

This provides our Year 13 students with their second taste of ‘real life’ as local employers and professionals give up their time to provide an excellent interview experience in line with current recruitment trends. Students are carefully coached in advance. Verbal feedback is provided and a written report is given to students to help them to review their technique prior to future interviews. We have an excellent group of 70 interviewers who work in pairs and, as a result, we can often match our students to the job/specialist areas of our interviewers. The support from the local community is second to none.


The vast majority of students in Down High School will apply to university; as a result we have an excellent, well-organised and successful UCAS support system. Year 13 students receive information and guidance on applying through UCAS and writing Personal Statements. They also carry out extensive research on universities and courses that may be of interest to them. In June, Year 13 students attend a UCAS Registration Day in which they register online and formally begin their UCAS application. Parents are invited to a UCAS Information Evening to ensure that they remain fully involved in what are life-changing decisions for the students. Completion of their UCAS Application is therefore a priority for students during their summer vacation. This ensures that they are ready to submit their application for the final checks at the start of Year 14. Students are encouraged to use their free time to research courses and institutions, refine their Personal Statement and complete all details on the UCAS form. Down High School is very fortunate that Mrs Kathleen Calvert is constantly available within the Careers Library, assisting students and parents with any queries that they may have. The school’s Senior Leadership Team and over 20 teachers are actively committed to this process.

Extra preparation for Oxbridge and Med/Dentistry/Vet candidates

From the start of Year 13, prospective Oxbridge and Med/Dentistry/Vet candidates receive ongoing coaching through university-style tutorials. Down High School is also currently exploring new ways to raise the aspirations of particularly gifted pupils at an earlier age. Gifted and talented students are encouraged to engage in significant independent research and to attend the Current Affairs Society and Debating Society.

External specialists are brought into the school to prepare Oxbridge and Med/Dentistry/Vet candidates for interview. Students who take part find it to be an immensely useful experience. This initiative has now been expanded to assist applicants to Nursing, Social Work and Teaching courses – all highly competitive fields. The latter is organised in collaboration with our Lecale partner schools.

Careers Guidance Interviews

Every Year 10 pupil receives a Careers Guidance Interview. Pupils are interviewed in pairs during a session lasting 30 minutes.

The pupils have the opportunity to:

  • Discuss their individual needs, including subject choices
  • Research their areas of interest using ICT and literature
  • Assess their transferable skills and qualities
  • Recognize the skills they need to develop

After completing the Employability programme in Year 11, each pupil is surveyed by DEL(NI) to identify those students who require the most help with identifying their future career pathways. The school has forged a strong relationship with the careers professionals in Rathkeltair House.

In Year 12 every pupil receives a Careers Guidance Interview. Pupils have the opportunity to:

  • Discuss their individual needs and subject choices
  • Research their career using ICT and/or Literature
  • Focus upon their own personal skills and qualities
  • Recognise the skills they need to develop
  • Seek advice and carry out research on Further & Higher Education courses

In Sixth Form, different members of staff (including the Head of Careers, Careers Assistant Coordinator, Academic Tutors and Head Teacher) interview students at various stages throughout their two years of A-Level study. The Careers Library is an open and welcoming hub.

Our Careers Advisers will never tell a pupil what they should do for a career; they will simply point them in the right direction in order to help them to make informed choices. Pupils are encouraged to take responsibility for their own future by carrying out individual research and keeping abreast of changes in courses and entry requirements. This is an important skill that our pupils continue to use after they leave school. Careers Education and Guidance is about preparing pupils for what comes next and encouraging them to take their place in the modern world.

The Careers Library

The Careers Department is centred on the Careers Library, which is resourced with ICT facilities, prospectuses, books and magazines. The Careers Library has an open-door policy for Sixth Form students, whilst Junior and Middle School pupils are encouraged to visit during break and lunchtime. Mrs K Calvert is in the Careers Library every day and other members of the Careers Department are frequently available.


In response to current Labour Market Information and government guidelines, the Careers Department promotes the value of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as attractive and vital career pathways for many pupils. The Invest NI website identifies growth areas in our regional economy (including the Agri-Food Sector, Renewable Energy, Finance, Tourism, Small Businesses, the Life Sciences, the Creative Industries and Software Development). There is a very high uptake for STEM subjects in Down High School, but the Careers Department is trying to encourage pupils to become more discerning in regard to the STEM pathways that they hope to pursue. STEM departments invite a range of speakers into school and students often take part in Sentinus programmes in relation to Engineering and Computer Programming. A number of teachers have also participated in Teacher-in-Industry taster days in various STEM industries.

Some other valuable curriculum areas

In addition to the STEM options, pupils in Down High School are also encouraged to take a balanced approach when making their subject choices. The business world is crying out for more linguists and a foreign language is viewed as very useful if a pupil is interested in mastering computer programming. Literacy and communication skills are also highly valued in the workplace and traditional grammar school subjects (including English Literature, History, Geography and Religious Studies) develop these transferable skills. Down High School also offers a broad selection of applied subjects that are popular with many pupils and are relevant to a wide range of career pathways. The school has a proven record of creative and artistic departments that provide students with a superb platform for a career within the Creative Arts.

The Lecale Area Learning Community and Careers

Careers teachers and advisers from throughout the Lecale ALC meet several times a year to share good practice and coordinate some of our activities. Very strong relationships have been forged and the over-arching aim is to share knowledge, resources and expertise for the collective benefit of all of the young people of East Down. An obvious example of this effective collaboration may be seen in the promotion of STEM across the Lecale area. It also makes sound economic sense to share the expense of interview workshops and other employability initiatives amongst all of the interested stakeholders.

Calendar of Events

Mid-August onwards

The Careers Department is on hand to support students receiving external examination results and to help students embarking upon Third-Level Education.


Year 14 students experience the QUB Open Day. A UCAS Reference Writer is also assigned to these students.

Year 13 students begin their Sixth-Form Careers programme (including a focus group for prospective applicants to Medicine/Dentistry/Veterinary, Oxbridge and Trinity College Dublin).

October – December

The Careers Team (including over 20 UCAS Reference Writers) works tirelessly to assist 160 Year 14 students with their UCAS application.

Additional interview training and subject specific support is provided for prospective Oxbridge candidates.


Parents of Year 10 pupils are invited to a Careers Information Evening.

Further support is provided for prospective teachers, nurses and social workers, and for pupils who need to submit a Portfolio of work.


Parents of Year 12 pupils attend a Careers Information Evening. The University of Ulster presents to Year 13 students.


Year 13 students enjoy a Work Experience placement.


70 employers and professionals assist the school with our Mock Interview Evening.

The ancient and modern Scottish universities make presentations to Year 13 students.


The Careers Department works closely with the SENCO, identifying any extra support that is required for pupils with additional learning needs.

March – June

Young Enterprise workshops are held for pupils in Years 8 – 10 to develop a more entrepreneurial outlook.


A UCAS workshop is held for Year 13 students and (in the evening) their parents attend a UCAS / Futures Day event.