Don't axe thriving service

11th February 2005 at 00:00
We were interested to read last week that the careers service is to be disbanded. This coincided with us preparing our own press statement announcing the children and young people's minister Margaret Hodge's pleasure at Connexions' achievement of the Government's target to reduce the percentage of 16 to 18-year-olds not in education employment or training.

Despite National Audit Office acknowledgement that Connexions is underfunded, our service is thriving: not only have we achieved a 14 per cent reduction in 16 to18-year-olds out of work and learning (against the Government's 10 per cent target), but more than 85 per cent of the Connexions Partnerships inspected by the Office for Standards in Education have been judged satisfactory or better.

And what do young people think of their service? Of 80,000 young people asked by research company BMRB for their views on Connexions, more than 90 per cent were satisfied, with 86 per cent seeking advice about jobs and careers. In a way this is not surprising given the level of young people's involvement in the design, governance, inspection and evaluation of Connexions Partnership work across the country. You report John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, saying "every head feels the Connexions service is poor". But close working relationships between Connexions Partnerships and their local secondary schools are improving the quality of advice support and guidance to young people across England.

We look forward to the youth Green Paper and assume it will give us a clear policy framework for young people, recognising that their needs are different from those of "children".

Why would the Government want to undermine one of its major success stories by disbanding a service that has exceeded government targets in its first four years, models the partnership working of the new "Change for Children" programme, provides the Government's requirement of targeted services embedded in universal services - and, most important, is used well by the young people it serves and is demonstrably improving their life chances?

Carolyn Caldwell

Executive director

National Association of Connexions Partnerships

Watsons Chambers

5-15 Market Place

Castle Square

Sheffield

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