The Connexions Service in England

The Connexions Service in England was part of a government strategy to reduce social exclusion among young people. We explore its strange roots, the emergence of the personal adviser role, and the current state of development of the Service. We also highlight some fundamental questions and issues that were present from the start, and discuss the failure of the Connexions project.

contents: introduction · the service outlined · two key design flaws · personal advisors · priority groups · the organization of the service · the failure of connexions · further reading and references

The government first announced its intention to set up a support service for young people in Learning to Succeed: a new framework for post 16 learning (1999). The aim was to ensure ‘a smooth transition from compulsory schooling to post-16 learning’ and to the world of work. The setting up of a youth support service (now known as the Connexions Service) was seen as representing a significant change in the way support was provided to young people. There was a focus on ‘coherence across current service boundaries, so that someone has an overview of the whole of a young person’s needs’. The development of a comprehensive record system was also proposed to ‘ensure that prompt, coordinated action is taken if a young person stops being involved in education or training and risks “dropping out”’. Elsewhere we have explored seven key themes running through the Connexions Strategy – social exclusion, ‘the knowledge economy’, ‘joined-up thinking’, surveillance and control, the focus on targets and outcomes, transition and individualization. There are significant problems associated with each. When these are linked to key flaws in the design of the service itself – and the way the government has sought to ‘transform’ youth work to serve Connexions objectives – we can see that the whole enterprise is deeply problematic. Here we provide an overview of the Connexions Service and the role of personal advisers within it. We also examine some key design flaws.

The Connexions Service outlined

The aim, targets and underlying principles of the new service were announced in April 2000 (DfEE 2000).

The Connexions Service – aims and principles

Aim. The key aim of the Service will be to enable all young people to participate effectively in appropriate learning – whether in school, FE college, training provider or other community setting – by raising their aspirations so that they reach their full potential. The new service will play a central role in helping to deal with problems experienced by young people, removing any wider barriers to effective engagement in learning that young people are suffering. It will do this by providing high quality support and guidance, and by brokering access for young people to a range of more specialist services. The Connexions Service will ensure that all young people have access to the support and guidance they need, when and wherever they need it, irrespective of their circumstances. The Service will be universal and comprehensive, and will ensure that no young person falls through the net of support. (6.2)

Principles. The Service will be based on eight key principles:

raising aspirations – setting high expectations of every individual;

meeting individual need – and overcoming barriers to learning;

taking account of the views of young people – individually and collectively, as the new service is developed and as it is operated locally;

inclusion – keeping young people in mainstream education and training and preventing them moving to the margins of their community;

partnership – agencies collaborating to achieve more for young people, parents and communities than agencies working in isolation;

community involvement and neighbourhood renewal – through involvement of community mentors and through personal advisers brokering access to local welfare, health, arts, sport and guidance networks;

extending opportunity and equality of opportunity – raising participation and achievement levels for a l l young people, influencing the availability, suitability and quality of provision and raising awareness of opportunities;

evidence based practice – ensuring that new interventions are based on rigorous research and evaluation into ‘what works’.

Reproduced from DfEE (2000) Connexions


While the aim of the Connexions Service may well have made for a widening of focus for some of those arriving at it from the ‘modern’ careers service (although not from older notions of careers work), it entailed a considerable narrowing of focus for many youth workers and informal educators. It was problem-oriented and individualizing. It was also outcome driven – and this was a particular worry. As we know at the time from the experience of careers companies and some youth work initiatives, a narrow concern with outcome leads to an inability to follow-up on significant areas of interest and learning. Perhaps most significantly, the injunction to fulfil targets, for example around sexual activity, meant that the Connexions Service was fundamentally concerned with moulding and directing behaviour – rather than with education.

A further, significant, aspect of the Connexions Service was the extension of the surveillance of young people. A comprehensive record system that operates across area boundaries was instituted in order to track progress and assess outcomes. In part, this system was an evaluation tool (linked to national and local targets), in part, a mechanism by which young people do not ‘slip though the net’. (We discuss issues around this extension of surveillance within the Connexions Service when looking at the strategy overall).

Two key design flaws

As Watts (2001) has pointed out there were two crucial design flaws. The first was linked to the claim that the Connexions Service is designed not just for young people at risk of social exclusion, but for all young people. It was supposed to be both a targeted and a universal service.

The conventional and logical way to reconcile these dual aims is first to design the universal service and then extend it to ensure that the distinctive needs of the targeted group are satisfactorily addressed. But Connexions was designed on the reverse basis… In other words, universality was a second-order consideration. As a result, efforts were made to extrapolate to all young people measures designed to address the needs of the primary target-group. If the needs of young people at risk were perceived to require the merging of services, then the services must be merged as a totality. If young people at risk were to have a Personal Adviser, then all young people must have one. (Watts 2001)

The second flaw identified by Watts was that the original Demos aim of merging the youth, careers and educational welfare services was only part-implemented. The only service brought into the Connexions Service as a whole was the Careers Service. Other services remained as entities, but were expected to take part in, and help fund, Connexions.

The main reason for this distinction was administrative convenience: the Careers Service was the only budget that the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) – as the main Government department responsible for the planning of Connexions – was able to control; without it, the funding base for the new service looked fragile. But the decision to commit the whole of the Careers Service budget to the Connexions Service and Strategy, alongside the failure to secure similar commitments from other budget-holders, immediately produced an imbalance in the structure of Connexions Service partnerships. It also meant that careers services’ existing mainstream work was placed under threat.

When these flaws are added to the original, questionable assumptions concerning social exclusion and ‘joined up’ services then the problematic nature of the Connexions Service became clear. These difficulties can be seen in the role of the personal advisor, the priority groups identified and the organizational structures that have emerged.

Personal advisors

A new occupational grouping was established within the Connexions Service – that of personal adviser. The influential Social Exclusion Unit report, Bridging the Gap, argued for the development of a comprehensive service employing staff with a range of professional backgrounds, such as careers officers, youth workers and counsellors. It was suggested that there was room for a new specialism or professional group. The notion of a ‘youth broker’ or personal adviser – had been put forward by DEMOS (Bentley and Gurumurthy 1999). The DfEE (2000) argues that personal advisers are the ‘heart’ of the service. Their role is to:

Work with, or as part of, schools, colleges or training providers.

Provide one-to-one support and information, guidance and information.

Undertake assessment, planning and review.

Work with parents and carers.

Access and contribute toward community support networks.

Work with other agencies

Keep in contact and monitor with regard to progress and outcomes.

A new training structure was introduced (and then ended after the initial cohorts were trained). It involved the introduction of a short Diploma Course that all Connexions Service personal advisors were required to undertake. Designed centrally, and run under contract by a range of training agencies, it had a strong emphasis on guidance and case management. However, and rather fatally, it entailed no supervised and accessed practice. Further programmes, including an introduction to the Connexions Service (Understanding Connexions) followed. The personal advisers recruited by the initial schemes came, as was expected, from a range of backgrounds including the careers service, youth work and social work.

Several key questions arose with regard to the new occupational role – and these flowed from the original design flaws, and the ideology underlying the Connexions strategy.

First, there were questions as to how careers guidance could be sustained at a satisfactory level within the Connexions Service. The new role of personal advisor was essentially a ‘bright idea’ by people who did not have a solid grounding in the practice and nature of vocational guidance. By adopting this conception and drawing in personnel and funding from existing careers services, the government effectively reduced the resources that can be devoted to careers guidance and raised the danger of a ‘serious erosion of professional standards’ (Watts 2001). Personal advisors had to work with a range of issues and problems and were not be able, in the normal course of their activities, to develop a specialist knowledge of career opportunities and questions. The emergence of specialist Connexions advisers concerned with guidance still didn’t improve services sufficiently (as was recognized in later government papers including Youth Matters). Furthermore, careers guidance and advice only formed a small part of the new training programme for personal advisers within the Connexions Service.

Second, the orientation of the personal adviser role within the Connexions Service was essentially toward case management, placement and advice. In a sense this can be seen as the ‘natural’ outcome of trends that had been occurring within both careers and youth work over a number of years, but there was a serious downside. The role entailed a shift from casework to case management. The role (and the system in which it makes sense) was oriented to the achievement of externally set targets concerning the behaviour of the young people it dealt with – and the completion of the necessary paperwork to facilitate and demonstrate this. It was not oriented to working with young people to explore how and where they may flourish, and to develop their own strategies for growth. The role also entailed a shift from education to placement and advice. While the educational practice of youth and careers services in England had left a lot to be desired – at least there was in the case of youth work the possibility of appealing to educative statements of purpose or traditions of practice.

Third, from the start is was not clear how the role was to be defined. How far the personal adviser within the Connexions Service was to be expected to be ‘a first-in-line adviser, a nominated specialist with an additional generic role, a new additional generalist, or a merging of existing specialists into a multi-skilled generalist’ (Watts 2001). Each had very different implications for the knowledge and skill base of personal advisers. There was also a potential question of the erosion of professional standards.

The notion grew that in the case of career guidance, Personal Advisers might be expected to deliver what was required. But, of course, not all Personal Advisers would have been trained to provide career guidance. It was suggested that a small element of training in a short generic course might fill this gap. This raised the danger of serious erosion of professional standards in service delivery. When, later, a clearer distinction was established between generic Personal Advisers and specialist support in vocational guidance, the issue was still blurred by using the term ‘specialist personal advisers’ for the latter – these being distinguished from those who wished to become ‘fully qualified Connexions personal advisers’. (Watts 2001)

Watts (2001) went on to comment that locating ‘careers advisers as specialists within a new profession of Personal Advisers, in which they were not regarded as being fully qualified, seemed paradoxical, confusing and indeed demeaning’.

Fourth, to achieve the proposed coverage within the Connexions Service an increase in funding was required. A significant number of personal advisers, it was initially thought, would be recruited/seconded from existing youth and careers services. The government realized that somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 personal advisors would be required. However, there was a major problem. There are only around 7000 careers service advisers in the whole of the UK, and probably around the same number of youth workers. A significant number of the former were still required to provide traditional career guidance, and a significant number of the latter continued to work outside the Connexions Service and Connexions Strategy. The additional finances was not forthcoming on the scale required. In addition there was some significant diversion of funds from the vocational guidance and open youth work arenas.

Last, there were, and remained, considerable doubts as to the standards of the personnel recruited. This, allied with the limited nature of the training, meant that professional standards in the generic adviser area were variable.

Priority groups

While the service was supposed to be universal, there was a prioritization of those with ‘multiple problems’ and who are ‘at risk of disengaging’. It was argued that it is possible to distinguish between:

General advice and support – at those key episodes in each young person’s life when information, advice and support on educational and vocational issues will be necessary to help them make decisions that affect their future.

In-depth support – for those at risk of not participating effectively in education and training. This group include those: whose aspirations do not reflect their abilities; who do not attend school regularly, who have learning difficulties or disabilities, who are unlikely to achieve as they should and those who are not undertaking any education or training post-16. Young people in these situations need in-depth guidance and support to help them to address barriers to learning and to enable them to fulfil their potential.

Integrated and specialist support – for those facing substantial, multiple problems preventing them from engaging with learning, who are likely to be involved with a number of different professionals engaged in education, social welfare, criminal justice, health and housing. Equally, we will integrate support for the especially gifted. They will need Personal Advisers to take effective action on their behalf to help them gain access to a range of more specialist services, to ensure that barriers are overcome in a coordinated way, and keep in touch with their progress. (DfEE 2000: 37)

The new personal advisers within the Connexions Service were expected to carry a caseload of 10-20 people requiring integrated and specialist support, 250 people requiring in-depth support, and 800 people requiring general support (unpublished DfEE papers). Particular attention was to be given to young people with special educational needs. A key aspect of this work was the monitoring of progress so that further interventions can be made.

Two particular questions arose here. First, as Watts (2001) commented, the scale of these caseloads rather undermines claims that the service is universal. ‘With large case-loads …the rationale for the role of a Personal Adviser – able to form a relationship, view the young person in holistic terms, broker specialist services – was clearly neither credible nor sustainable’. Second, the Connexions Service reflected two classic policy errors arising out of adopting a deficit model – and focusing attention on those deemed to be ‘the problem’:

  • The individualistic focus sidelines the structural issues that largely create the problem. In other words, there is a focus on ‘private problems’ rather than ‘public issues’ (see Wright Mills on this error). We discuss this issue in relation to the broader Connexions Strategy.
  • Even if we accept the idea that individuals may need special help, the key questions then concern the most effective points of intervention, and what the most appropriate intervention may be. The best point of intervention may not be with individuals themselves, but with their friends, families and ‘significant others’, and with the institutions they encounter.

Elsewhere on these pages we discuss the overwhelming evidence emerging from US studies that health, happiness, educational achievement and community safety are significantly increased by addressing questions of social capital rather than focusing strongly upon individualistic interventions. One consequence of this is that resources may be better directed towards encouraging people to join groups, clubs and associations (whether these are enthusiast groups, churches, political parties, social clubs…). This entails working with those people likely to sustain the life of groups and networks – and a large proportion of these were not be in the priority groups identified by the English government.

The organization of the service

The Service was ‘delivered’ through a national unit. Partnerships at the area Learning and Skills Council (LSC) level were responsible for strategic planning and funding. These partnerships are expected to produce three-year business plans, that include ‘the optimum mix of delivery through private, voluntary and public partners’ (DfEE 2000: 49) and show how outcomes will be met. On the basis of these plans, the National Unit apportioned funding. If the National Unit was not satisfied with the plan or the work of the Partnership, it could withhold funding or contract directly with private or voluntary sector organizations. The Partnership was also be responsible for ensuring that a database of young people was created and maintained.

Locally, (usually based on local authority boundaries or groupings of local authority areas) there was supposed to be a committee responsible for the day-to-day operational ‘delivery’ of the service. A local manager will be responsible to the committee for day-to-day management.

The committees will be responsible for ensuring the Personal Adviser service works to uniform standards and reaches all young people without duplication of effort. It will also be responsible for managing the relationship between the personal advisor service and important specialist support services on which Personal Advisers will need to call to help young people enter or stay in learning and play a positive role in their local communities. When thinking about the areas to be covered by the local management committees, local partners will take into account the configuration of existing partnership areas, such as those for Learning Partnerships , so that there are effective links with services such as the adult information, advice and guidance service. (DfEE 2000: 50)

Local committees, along with Connexions Partnerships and head teachers were supposed to agree a ‘coherent management structure for personal advisers’. This included staff seconded to the service, and staff working under formal or informal partnership agreements (DfEE 2000: 50). These arrangements were phased in over a period of two to three years. Early evaluations indicated a number of problems including issues arising out of bringing together workers from very different occupational cultures (part of this arises from resistance to the dominance of one occupational group in senior management); questions concerning what the most effective structures and organizational arrangements may be; and the inevitable problems of sorting out what a personal adviser might be expected to do (see above). Besides this there was a fundamental issue with regard to schools.

From the start there was a failure to properly address the relationship of the Connexions Service and personal advisors to schools –and a number of problems flow from this. As Watts (2001) has pointed, out pastoral care structures in schools were virtually ignored in the initial design – and the tutor system in many schools clearly held considerable possibility with respect to the mentor/personal advisor role. Reference was made to learning mentors in schools (these were introduced as part of the Excellence in Cities initiative in certain selected local education areas) – and this generated a great deal of confusion. There seemed to be some threat to the relative freedom enjoyed by schools and mentors to develop the role. It had been possible to develop a range of groupwork activities; to explore the school as the ‘problem’ rather than the student; and to look to the possibilities of association. The linking of the personal adviser and learning mentor role was problematic in these respects. The imposition of a fairly rigid caseload requirement would not allow for the space that mentors require to respond in the best way to the experiences of students. Subsequently there has been a recognition of the need to ‘build on successful pastoral systems and curriculum provision, including careers education and guidance’ (DfEE 2001: 3). But equally, the pilot projects have shown there is no single blueprint. ‘Connexions will operate in many ways in schools, to reflect how young people can best benefit and how individual schools are organised and resourced (op. cit.).

Within schooling there are also issues related to impartiality.

Because the role of Personal Advisers pre-16 was focused largely on combating disaffection from learning, there appeared to be a strong case for basing them in schools… This immediately raised concerns about the long-standing issue of the impartiality of advice offered on post-16 options in 11-18 schools which had a financial interest in persuading their pupils to stay on rather than move elsewhere. The main assurance of impartiality of advice was access to careers advisers based outside the school: this was the rationale for mandating such access in the Education Act 1997. But if many Careers Advisers were to be replaced by Personal Advisers appointed and managed by headteachers, the extent of this access seemed likely to be severely reduced; and insofar as career guidance was in future to be offered by these Personal Advisers, the likelihood of overt or subtle pressures being placed on their impartiality was significantly enhanced. (Watts 2001)

In the arrangements that were agreed ‘the potential for conflict or collusion’ (op. cit.) was considerable. The government stressed the impartiality of advice in its guidance to schools – but the substantive points raised by Watts stand. Heads had and retain a strong influence over the way the role emerges and the direction it takes. ‘Headteachers will have a large say in the selection of PAs being recruited by Connexions for schools’ work. They will negotiate the role and deployment of the PA(s) working in their own school (DfEE 2001).

The failure of Connexions

It became abundantly clear to Ministers that the flagship, or at least most prominent, New Labour policy initiative in the youth field – Connexions – was deeply problematic. Although obvious to many commentators at the time of its announcement in 1999 (see the critiques on these pages) flaws in its organization, execution and focus became a political issue. A Green Paper for Youth seemed like a good mechanism for dealing with this.

Some of the flak headed for Connexions was down to a basic political mistake. The original Connexions strategy was bulldozed through and in the process alienated key stakeholders. This would not have mattered if Connexions had strong support from the ‘top’ (like SureStart) but it had few friends among senior ministers and had annoyed some key lobby groups. Perhaps the most significant of these was head teachers. A number had become vocal critics of the new service (as were many parents and young people – despite what Connexions-funded research may have reported). Not unexpectedly, and with some reason, the Secondary Heads Association argued that with additional resources schools could do better both with regard to careers advice and to work with ‘youth at risk’.

Second, there were strong grounds for believing that the quality of general and specialized careers guidance for young people had dropped with the onset of Connexions. An ‘End-to-End Review’, the outcomes of which were said to have fed into the Youth Green Paper’ (DfES 2004c) concluded that ‘the current arrangements are patchy and not sustainable’ ( 2005). According to a Public Accounts Committee Report (2004), 50 per cent of schools are apparently failing to fulfil their current duties (under the 1997 Education Act) for careers education and guidance.

Third, there was a basic problem with the way in which Connexions was supposedly established as both a universal and a targeted service. As Watts (2001) pointed out, ‘universality was a second-order consideration’, and this effectively meant that the main strands of careers guidance and youth work (via Transforming Youth Work) were neglected. This conclusion has been supported by research by Hoggarth and Smith (2005) which concluded that Connexions looks more like two services than one, and is not adequately resourced to meet the demands of both universal and targeted youth provision. The Select Committee on Education and Skills (2005) also considered that the current trajectory of Connexions meant that ‘a targeted service for those in most need will always be the priority at the expense of young people in general’ (House of Commons 2005: para 103).

Fourth, there were growing doubts about the claims made for Connexions with regard to its reducing the numbers of young people classified as NEET (not in employment, education and training). Figures published covering the first full two years of the Connexions partnerships showed a reduction of the proportion of young people designated as NEET (from 9 to 7.7 per cent) (Connexions 2005). This was, on the surface, a 14 per cent reduction (that comfortably exceeded the 10 per cent target set for Connexions). However, departmental ministers were reported as coming to believe that it was other policy initiatives such as those within schooling itself that were main contributors to the reduction in youth labelled as NEET (Times Educational Supplement March 4, 2005). The Public Accounts Committee Report (2004) had also drawn attention to the impact of sustained economic growth on such figures. They had commented: ‘The effectiveness of Connexions is difficult to distinguish from changes in employment patterns attributable to economic factors… Connexions cannot be solely responsible for any change’. The National Audit Office (2004: 17) had also judged that it was on the ‘inherent difficulty’ to measure the impact of Connexions in this area. It had, further, drawn attention to the extent to which socio-economic factors outside the control of Connexions and other government institutions make it hard to sustain long-term and continuing reduction in the percentage of NEETs (ibid: 21)

Fifth, the cost of the Service relative to the number of young people targeted (£533 million in 2004/5 – DfES 2004b) and the numbers of people involved in middle management positions were also factors (the service employed some 15,000 people). There was a general concern on the part of Labour Party strategists to make some gestures to cost-cutting/efficiency in the run up to a general election. If we break down the the figures provided by Connexions then the 14 per cent claimed reduction in young people classified as NEET actually translates into 21,500 young people. If we then strip out what was being spent on careers services before Connexions (and make allowance for inflation) the crude cost of achieving this result was £243 million or £11,300 per person – and this assumes that the Service effected the change. If other factors were significant (see above) then the cost per person would rise significantly. In addition, it has been reported that Tony Blair and his chief adviser Andrew Adonis were ‘ruing the fact that £450 million a year was now being spent away from schools and colleges’ (Times Educational Supplement, March 18, 2005). This was a large sum of money – but as the National Audit Office report concluded in 2004 – it wasn’t enough. There was still a significant shortage of personal advisers – and this would need a further £150 million a year.

Sixth, there were questions about the abilities of some front-line personnel.  In areas like London, personal advisers appear to have had no other relevant professional qualification, and the hastily put-together training for personal advisers was short-run and contained no supervised and assessed practice element. Significantly, the rush to impose the personal adviser role on careers officers led to a number quitting the new service and many being pushed into more generic roles where their careers expertise was under-utilized. Furthermore, some careers officers did not have the orientation and range of skills that was necessary for the generic personal adviser role.

Finally, the impact of the Connexions strategy on youth work was unpopular in some sectors – especially in the way it had driven moves toward targeting and accreditation – and undermined informal educational character of youth work. The Transforming Youth Work agenda was specifically designed to align state-sponsored youth work with Connexions targets and concerns. While state youth service institutions such as the National Youth Agency, and voluntary organizations dependent on state-sponsorship such as UK Youth may have gone along with this agenda – there was much muttering amongst local groups and projects about the impact on the work – and this did feed through locally to politicians and then nationally. One route was through to the UK Youth Parliament where some members were growing alarmed at the closure of open provision and its replacement by outcome-oriented work (Young People Now November 10, 2004). The Conservative Party picked up on this and came out against a strong emphasis on outcomes. Shadow education secretary Tim Collins, argued that the Government was ‘driving young people away’ from youth provision through its policy focus on learning outcomes (Young People Now, November 3: 4).


Introducing a new service is difficult enough. However, when it is built upon such flawed thinking the potential for problems was greatly enhanced. As we saw when discussing the Connexions Strategy the notion of social exclusion that runs through the Service is not built on solid ground. The Connexions Service reflected a further move towards ways of working that pathologize and individualize young people. There was an overriding concern with personal troubles rather than public issues. Unfortunately, this has been combined with the extension of the surveillance of young people and mechanisms by which they can be tracked and controlled. The ‘commonsense’ notion of ‘joined-up’ thinking and services can act against the interests of many young people. It can work to cut back of the range of choices they have, and allow for sensitive information (including medical details) to be spread among an increasing range of people.

It was not uncommon to find senior managers within the new services talking very pessimistically about the future and direction of the Connexions Service. Some did not expect it to work in any very meaningful way (meaningful, that is, in terms of achieving the targets that have been set for it). Others bemoaned the bureaucracy involved. Yet others were worried about the sort of business models involved and the extent to which these may work against the giving of a proper and appropriate service to young people.

In 2005 the green paper on youth – Youth Matters – argued that all young people should be able to access ‘quality’ information, advice and guidance. The paper continued:

The advice should be impartial, comprehensive and free from stereotyping. It should be available in ways that young people want – for example, face-to-face support and advice from people who know them and their abilities; but also on demand and interactively via the web, text and telephone. (HM Government 2005 [Youth Matters], para 5.1)

Better national on-line information around things like post-14 choices and by phone and web access to ‘skilled’ advisers had already been trailed. The Labour Party manifesto had earlier talked about ‘A nationwide system of advice – bringing together support on skills, jobs and careers – helping people to get on at work’ (2005: 20). So too, had the other elements of the proposals – moving the primary responsibility for information, advice and guidance from Connexions to Children’s Trusts – but with schools and colleges taking on more of the more ‘universal’ and generalized work.

We would expect children’s trusts, schools and colleges to work in partnership to commission IAG locally…  Following a phased approach from 2006, we would expect these new arrangements to be in place by 2008. (op. cit)

Crudely, this meant that the work of the Connexions Service was to be split with responsibility for the provision of careers guidance to 13-18 year olds resting with schools and colleges; and responsibility for work with young people who do not attend a learning institution going to the newly emerging Children’s Trusts. Around £150 million had been earlier reported as being earmarked for these reforms in 2008 with around £80 million being put aside for staff redundancies. It appears that only around half the existing £450 million spent on Connexions Services (we believe this figure refers to the 2002-3 outturn figures) was to be allocated to the new service – 40 per cent of the cash will go direct to schools and colleges, and 60 per cent to Children’s Trusts. However, there may well be a significant amount of smoke and mirrors here. At the moment Children’s Trusts will, it appears, be responsible for producing a ‘prospectus’ of local employment opportunities. Children’s Trusts will also have to maintain information systems ‘inherited’ from Connexions. The Connexions brand – tired and tarnished as it is – and possibly elements of the organization will be retained within many Children’s Trusts for some aspects of the work both to save some face over what has been a monumental policy blunder (see the background briefing on the failure of Connexions) and to give some stability to services.

In the Youth Matters framework the actual shape of provision can differ from trust to trust depending on local circumstances. In most cases the government expects to see children’s trusts, schools and colleges agreeing on new arrangements. However, where schools and colleges believe existing provision is poor, ‘they would have the right to commission services directly and withdraw from arrangements brokered by the children’s trust’ (HM Government 2005 [Youth Matters], para 174). The Youth Matters green paper continues, ‘How far IAG commissioned by schools and colleges met quality standards would be determined by inspection. Where provision commissioned by schools and colleges was not meeting quality standards, devolved funding could be withdrawn by children’s trusts’.

There are some very significant questions around the current proposals in Youth Matters for the organization of careers guidance and how its quality will be enhanced. Hopefully, the proposal to move substantial resourcing into schools for careers guidance and advice will later be matched with money to establish a specialist external service perhaps along the lines of Careers Scotland and Careers Wales at some point. As Tony Watts (2005b) has recently pointed out the OECD’s work ‘strongly favours a delivery model based on a partnership between schools/colleges and an external service. This is precisely the model that the UK has had in the past…. and that the rest of the UK has retained’. The issue when information advice and guidance moves into schools is whether the proper degree of independence and expertise can be ensured. For the moment it is difficult to see how it can. Thus, while the End to End Review of careers education and guidance argued that the  the greatest potential for ‘improving CEG delivery lies in driving up the quality and relevance of careers education in schools’; it also concluded that ‘schools (especially those with sixth forms) do not always provide impartial guidance to 14-to16-year olds on the full range of local learning opportunities’ DfES 2005d: 5).

Further reading and references

Alexander, R. (2000) Culture and Pedagogy. International comparisons in primary education, Oxford: Blackwell.

Bentley, T. and Gurumurchy, R. (1999) Destination Unknown. Engaging with the problems of marginalized youth, London: DEMOS.

Brown, G (1999) “Modernising the British economy – the new mission for the treasury” 30th Anniversary lecture, Institute of Fiscal Studies, 27.05.99. HM Treasury News Release 86/99: (online) Available from

Castells, M. (2001) ‘Information technology and global capitalism’ in W. Hutton and A. Giddens (eds.) On the Edge. Living with global capitalism, London: Vintage.

Cisse, T. (2001) ‘Beyond Connexions. Issues in constructive engagement, the informal education forum,

Coles, B. (2000) Joined-Up Youth Research, Policy and Practice. A new agenda for change?, Leicester: Youth Work Press.

Connexions (2005) ‘Partnership NEET targets met’ Connexions,

Davis, N. (2000) The School Report. Why Britain’s schools are failing, London: Vintage.

Department for Education and Employment (1999) Learning to Succeed. A new framework for post 16 learning, London: The Stationery Office (Cm 4392).

Department for Education and Employment (2000) Connexions. The best start in life for every young person, London: DfEE.

Department for Education and Employment (2000) Implementing Connexions in Schools, London: Department for Education and Employment.

Department for Education and Skills (2003) Every Child Matters, London: Department for Education and Skills.

Department for Education and Skills (2004a) Five Year Strategy for Children and Learners, London: Department for Education and Skills.

Department for Education and Skills (2004b) Annual Report 2004, London: Department for Education and Skills.

Department for Education and Skills (2004c) ‘CEG end to end review’,
Text&ptype=Single. Accessed March 19, 2005.

Department for Education and Skills (2005a) Children’s Workforce Strategy. A strategy to build a world-class workforce for children and young people, London: Department for Education and Skills.

Department for Education and Skills (2005b) Extended schools: Access to opportunities and services for all. A prospectus, London: Department for Education and Skills.

Department for Education and Skills (2005c) Youth Matters, London: Department for Education and Skills.

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How to cite this piece: Smith, M. K. (2000, 2007) ‘The Connexions Service in England’, The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education. [ Last update: July 08, 2014]

Image: Art critic explaining chaos theory to other art critics by paolobarzman. flickr-ccbyncnd2

© Mark K. Smith 2000, 2001, 2007.