Warning as advice service faces axe

College leaders say ministers must guarantee that youngsters get impartial careers guidance from whatever replaces the pound;450 million-a-year Connexions service, which the Government plans to wind up.

Senior government sources told FE Focus this week that the new youth Green Paper would propose returning control of most of the careers service to local education authorities. Other parts could be run by schools and colleges.

Ministers decided to intervene following widespread criticisms of Connexions from principals, school heads, MPs and the Government's own review. One source said: "There really is a feeling that the service is failing."

Charles Clarke, the former education secretary, expressed a desire last month to see LEAs take over. He told MPs: "One of the problems with the development of the Learning and Skills Council, Connexions and a vast range of other organisations is that you have quangos which bypass the role of the local authority."

The public accounts committee said Connexions was good at reaching 16 to 18-year-olds not in education or work, but "the wider population of young people may not always get the advice they need".

But the Association of Colleges has warned both groups will lose out unless independent advice is "guaranteed" post-Connexions. In the past, schools and colleges have been accused of giving biased advice to youngsters to encourage them to stay with them.

Judith Norrington, AoC director of curriculum and quality, said: "There is a world of difference between the advice given about what young people should do to progress in a school or college and where they should go if they are uncertain what is best for their future. Impartial advice is vital."

Mick Farley, executive director of Cumbria learning and skills council, said there was a danger of losing the good as well as the bad. He said:

"One of the strengths of Connexions Cumbria is that, being outside the LEA, it is able to form partnerships and draw in money that simply would not come to the local authority."

The Green Paper will propose careers advice be managed by new LEA-dominated Children's Trusts.

TES 1, Leader 22

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