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Career guidance is in safe hands

The article about the review of careers guidance in England (FE Focus, March 12) is strong on opinion, and short on evidence. In response we would point out the following facts:

* There are 47 Connexions Partnerships, which went live in three phases starting in 2001. Of the 15 in phase one, 12 started in April 2001 and three in September 2001. Phase two (13 partnerships) started from April 2002 and phase three (19 partnerships) from September 2002, including the final start-ups in April 2003. Thus most Connexions services are less than two years old;

* The fieldwork for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development review, published last summer, started in autumn 2000 and was completed in summer 2002. By that time only 28 Connexions Partnerships had gone live, 13 of them from April 2002. Thus any judgment that the OECD could reasonably make was at best based on less than one third of the partnerships across England;

* About 8,000 Connexions personal advisers have assisted young people on more than 3 million occasions in the last year. We are not aware of comparative statistics for staffing levels and interventions by careers services prior to Connexions;

* In a British Market Research Bureau survey of 16,000 young people in 2003, 91 per cent said they were satisfied with the service, 92 per cent said staff were knowledgeable and 98 per cent said staff were friendly. We are not aware of any comparative survey of how young people viewed careers services prior to Connexions;

* Published Ofsted reports on 13 Connexions Partnerships have concluded that 77 per cent were satisfactory or better, and the imminent publication of three further reports will increase this proportion. Fifteen area-wide studies carried out by Ofsted in the past 18 months demonstrate that Connexions provides valuable guidance which is an integral part of the extensive programme of careers education delivered by schools. We are not aware of comparative inspection reports for the careers service;

* More than a third of the current Connexions chief executives are former careers service senior managers who have lost none of their commitment to high-quality careers guidance and whose expertise is shared across the country through the National Association of Connexions Partnerships;

* Most Connexions services have retained the levels of qualified and experienced staff they inherited from the earlier careers service - indeed many partnerships are using the same sub-contracted companies to deliver the service, with increased finances in some places. Connexions has brought additional resources and developed strong partnerships with other agencies in order to provide a more holistic and much more accessible service that is starting to remove the blocks that some young people have experienced in their search for education, employment and training post-16;

* Connexions is the only service that has measurably reduced the number of 16 to 18-year-olds missing out on education, employment and training.

Connexions is a modern service which the Government has highlighted as its model of integrated working for the future. It has nothing to fear from a review of careers guidance which we hope will consider some "before and after" evidence to dispel some of the mythology to which The TES unfortunately contributes from time to time.

Carolyn Caldwell Executive director National Association of Connexions Partnerships Castle Square Sheffield

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