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Connexions has hijacked service

While other issues have dominated the education world in recent times another controversial and pernicious event has escaped the attention of most parents, schools and governors: the demise of the careers service.

Almost imperceptibly one of the most half-baked and potentially damaging experiments has led to the destruction of our universal careers service.

Called Connexions, it claims to offer a rainbow of support and advice that will provide the best start for all young people. It would appear to be a brave and well-meaning example of "joined-up working".

However, on closer inspection it offers a "five-star" service for a disaffected and often disruptive minority - an area of work already covered by school youth workers, education welfare and a myriad of other highly-qualified specialists - and limited provision or, as these new partnerships prefer to call it, a differentiated service for most young people.

In recent years much progress has been made in raising the standard of careers education and guidance in schools. This had been achieved through a three-pronged attack of greater funding for careers libraries in schools, training teachers to co-ordinate careers education and the improved status of professional careers advisers within the school community.

But just as this method was starting to achieve the recognition it merited, the main struts for this bridge from school to work were kicked away.

The careers service, part of the education department and whose budget was easy prey, has been sacrificed and its staff press-ganged to provide a hit squad mainly for those youngsters prone to falling into crime andor the black economy.

I urge schools, parents and students to fight a rearguard action to re-design the Connexions service, to ensure it includes a dedicated careers advisory service for all youngsters, rather than merely focus on the issues of disaffection.

The price of not doing so will be both an economic cost due to a higher drop-out rate from further education, and the wasted potential of many young people who were denied careers guidance at critical moments on their educational journey.

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