Learn from error of Connexions

11th February 2005 at 00:00
So Connexions is to be dismantled (TES, January 28). How this is done will determine career guidance services in England for the foreseeable future.

Your article mentioned two policy options. One is to hand control to the children's trusts. This will produce further erosion of the kind that occurred under Connexions. Instead of being subsumed within social inclusion, career guidance will now be subsumed within child protection.

Unless resources for career guidance are carefully ring-fenced, with appropriate performance measures, it will be further marginalised.

The second is to pass the resources to schools and colleges. This means that England will move to a wholly schoolcollege-based model of guidance delivery. Yet the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has criticised this model, in three respects: its weak links with the labour market, its lack of impartiality, and its lack of consistency.

The OECD work strongly favours delivery based on a partnership between schools colleges and an external service. This is precisely the model that the UK had in the past. It is also the model the rest of the UK has kept.

In Scotland and Wales, careers services have become all-age guidance services with a strong national identity.

My recent review of Careers Scotland, benchmarked against the OECD review, concluded that it is comparable to leading good practice across the world, and has the potential to be a world-leading public career-planning service.

An independent review of Careers Wales was similarly positive. What is at stake here is not trivial. The quality of career choices can have a massive impact on people's lives and economic growth.

The Government faces a stark choice: It can complete its wanton destruction of a valuable public service, allowing children's trusts and schoolscolleges to engage in an unseemly scramble over the remains. Or it can admit that Connexions was a well-intentioned error, learn from Scotland and Wales, and reconstitute the careers service on an all-age basis, with clear policy links to its skills strategy and its curriculum reforms. I fervently hope it will have the courage and wisdom to adopt the latter course.

Professor Tony Watts 3 Summerfield Cambridge

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