Memory stimulation

9th April 2004 at 01:00
Carolyn Caldwell makes a strong case for the success of Connexions in her letter (March 26). We should all celebrate the reduction in the numbers of 16 to 18-year-olds missing out on education, employment and training as well as the increased involvement of young people in the design and delivery of the service.

It is disappointing, though, that her letter repeatedly asserts a lack of performance data on careers services and ignores the range of evidence available. It is a pity this has not been used to influence the ongoing planning and delivery of services to young people.

All careers services were subject to regular systems and compliance audits by government offices, with data collected each quarter on interventions, training of staff and so forth (a close match with the data collected on Connexions services). The Department for Education and Skills also commissioned a range of performance assessments and surveys on key topics such as work in education, the use of action plans and labour market information.

A series of studies into the provision of careers education and guidance, undertaken on behalf of DfES by the National Foundation for Educational Research, culminated in the publication in September 2001 of the report The Delivery of Careers Education and Guidance in Schools (see the review of research and inspection findings, Improving Careers Education, on www.cegnet.co.uk).

All have important lessons for the implementation of the Connexions service; for example, the need to revisit criteria for targeting students so that they reflect their guidance needs, the importance of ongoing support to enhance capacity in schools, the risk of increased drop-out post-16 as a consequence of poor decision making. We wait with interest to see how many common messages there will be with the findings of the review in May.

The report from the Tomlinson Working Group (on 14-19 reforms) states that "while the Connexions service has succeeded in meeting the objectives it was set, it is likely that the objectives themselves will need to be revisited if the demand for more and better guidance is to be met". The Connexions Annual Review itself recognises that careers education and guidance "will become increasingly important over the coming years as more flexibility and choice is introduced into the 14-19 phase of education".

Let's hope the end-to-end review stimulates our collective memory and leads to the commitment and action needed by all to ensure careers education and guidance fully supports young people's progression and achievement.

Claire Nix Development Manager VT Careers Management Sutton House Weyside Park, Catteshall Lane Godalming, Surrey

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