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Course guidance goes online for 14 to 19-year-olds when a new website goes live

Internet-obsessed teenagers are being targeted as the Government takes its battle online to stop them dropping out of education. Colleges and other training organisations will be just a click away when they sell their courses on new internet sites.

Potential students in the 14 to 19 age group will be able to look up courses using the online equivalent of a university prospectus.

The initiative is aimed at schools, colleges and work-based learning providers, who offer courses up to A-level equivalent, as well as foundation degrees.

While the internet approach has already been running in some parts of the country, it is to be introduced across Greater London in February. It is anticipated that this will prompt many more areas to follow suit.

But Kieran Gordon, president of the Institute of Careers Guidance, is sceptical whether competing organisations, such as colleges and private training firms, will share information.

"In the past, we have seen institutions become very protective and not wishing to work in a genuinely open way because it threatens their interests," he said. "That does happen and, to be honest, I'm sure it will continue."

The online prospectus will help teenagers and parents make sense of the lessons and training in their area. As well as guiding them through the maze of education services on offer, it will enable them to sign up for courses.

The London service covers 200 work-based learning providers and 55 further education colleges, as well as voluntary and community sector organisations, all providing course information.

"It is a massive challenge," said Sean McMahon, who heads the project for LSC London.

Students will be able to search the database online by course, qualification, location and organisation. It will also help with advice on transport. In London, more than half of FE students travel outside their borough to study.

"It's a fantastic opportunity," said Ali Kay of the Work-based Learning Alliance.

But Mr McMahon, warned: "It's only as good as what goes into it. We can build a system, but (everything) rests on the quality of the information that's there."

A recent survey by the Association of Colleges found that 66 per cent of students wished they had received better advice. And more than half believed that teachers steer them towards courses that the school does best rather than ones that are right for them.

New guidelines have been published by a consortium of Connexions partnerships and careers bodies, setting out young peoples' entitlement to careers information advice and guidance.

The Department for Education and Skills is due to publish quality standards for careers information.

There are still concerns about what the future holds for the wider careers advice service.

Steve Hoy, chief executive of Connexions in Cheshire and Warrington, was worried about careers services losing out when funding goes direct to local authorities from 2008.

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