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Agency to curb drop-out rate

CONNEXIONS, the revamped youth service designed to give "the best start in life for every young person", was unveiled by the Government this week.

The Connexions strategy, described by Prime Minister Tony Blair as "our frontline policy for young people", will combine careers advice with personal mentoring.

Targets have also been set for increasing achievement and participation rates and reducing truancy and exclusions, drug abuse, youth-offending and teenage pregnancies. Department for Education and Employment officials said this week that the drop-out from education and training cost the nation approximately pound;350 million a year. About a third of all young people are thought either to give up their education and training or fail to achieve their learning goals.

A programme of financial support is also envisaged, based on the current pilots of educational maintenance allowances of up to pound;40 a week for those staying on at school after 16. Plans for a "youth card", giving discounts for transport and leisure activities, will also be announced shortly.

A "new profession" of personal adviers will be created as thousands of existing youth and social workers, careers advisers, teachers and those from community and voluntary groups are re-trained to give across-the-board help and advice to young people. The families of teenagers will also be able to use the service.

The 60-page document outlining the strategy promises that Connexions will be a "modern public service which works in a completely new way".

A spokesman for the DFEE said: "Wrong career paths can lead to a lot of wasted lives. With better advice services and better access young people will be able to make better choices. Obviously, people do drop out and we can never be 100 per cent successful but it could be targeted better."

The strategy will give "particular priority to those most at risk of disadvantage" but will be available to all young people including the "highly able".

"We think that some of the brightest children will need it as well because they may find that things are going too slowly for them and so this advice service might be able to develop different activities for them," he said.

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