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What direction for guidance?;Letter

There is much to applaud in the Government's Green Paper The Learning Age. It is all the more disappointing, therefore to have to record our collective dismay at its treatment of counselling and guidance for education and work.

Evidence shows that good guidance reduces wastage, lessens the risk of failure, motivates individuals and brings greater satisfaction in learning or at work. With the increasing complexity of the labour market, the availability of such guidance services is coming to be regarded as one of the essentials of an inclusive society.

It is recognised that adults find it difficult to access guidance and that the quality of services available has been very uneven due to the "hand-to-mouth" nature of current funding arrangements. We were, therefore, delighted that the Government, when in opposition, demonstrated a belief in benefits of lifelong access to guidance.

Labour set out its vision in its pre-election policy paper Careers education and guidance in the 21st century. This was reinforced by recommendations in the Kennedy and Fryer reports and by the widely-stated conviction that the guidance element at the Gateway stage of New Deal would be crucial to its success.

All this led us to expect the Green Paper to at least begin the process of improving access to guidance for people at all stages of their careers. We acknowledge that this could not be in place overnight due to the constraints on public expenditure. But we were optimistic that by working together with imagination we could design affordable services of high quality.

But the Green Paper says nothing about guidance for adults. Unless the development of individual learning accounts and the University for Industry include the means by which services can be provided in future we are left with the inescapable feeling of having moved backwards in terms of developing a national strategy.

We strongly support the Government's desire to make a reality of the Learning Age. But we are convinced that access throughout life to effective guidance is essential for it to work.

These are serious issues which we hope the Government will address during the next critical few months of policy formulation.

JOHN PEAKE, chairman, Careers Services National Association; STEVIE MARTIN, President, Institute of Careers Guidance; DAVID ANDREWS, chairman, National Association of Careers and Guidance Teachers; RODNEY BUSE, chairman, National Advisory Council for Careers and Educational Guidance; DOROTHY EGGLESTON, president, National Association of Educational Guidance for Adults; TONY WATTS, director, National Institute for Careers Education and Counselling; MARY LORD, director, training and education, Training and Enterprise Council National Council.

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