???I still think some sort of workable service that is suitable for purpose can be salvaged???

I put out a call for people to send me stuff about what was happening in relation to the cuts to Connexions services. I received a guest post from Russell George from Stopsley High School. I’d really like it if other people could send me similar stuff or post short posts in response to this article or others like it.

I’m a non teaching member of staff who looks after the school’s Gifted and Talented program, Aimhigher program and (as part of a team) our Careers and Work Related Learning provision. Because of my responsibilities in school I have seen the cycle that is currently happening in the secondary careers sector happen across all of my work. The retraction of Local Authority support, the expectation on schools to do more with less, a slow movement of schools into supportive consortia based around academy sponsors or locality and like minded Heads and ultimately, the need for the staff that are left to continue to politic and persuade so that their focuses are not forgotten and they are given the appropriate support they need.

In Luton, the Local Authority has retained a small number of Connexions PA’s on reduced hours. They sent a document to schools with costs for retaining full time PA’s but each school didn’t have the budget for the costs and we could not find a clear answer on what we would get for our money so, with the exception of two academies, no one bought the proposed service. They have both brought a PA for 2 days a week and have carte blanch on how they ask that PA to work (targeted support, group work, etc – it’s up to them). The rest of us (non-academy schools) have been left with a PA with 15 hours a week in each school and a long list of criteria that students must fulfill for them to be able to be referred to the PA. This service will be targeted at the most vulnerable such as Looked After Children, Free School Meals and Special Educational Needs (including students with behavioural or emotional needs) pupils. That leaves a lot of students without any support.

The Authority also previously employed an Adviser for schools for our Careers curriculum. Now that this is no longer statutory but the need to find independent advice is, the Authority has retained his role but altered it slightly to monitor how we fulfil this new requirement. Working with him and my Head I hope to encourage a new set up in the town where myself, and a few others, from the non-academy schools are trained to the required standard and “lent” around the town for some days a week to try and sustain something approaching a universal service. There will be many issues to sort out: all Heads need to agree and sign up to it; a suitable number of staff would need to be found who are both willing and able to incorporate the new work alongside what ever responsibilities they already have in their own school etc etc. In short, there’s a long way to go before we get a plan and get it working for everyone.

It’s a strange landscape out there at the moment as every school or group of schools is reacting to A LOT of change and this (careers/Connexions) is just another thing that has to be incorporated into new working alliances. We’ve just had the most disrupted KS4 option period I’ve ever known as we’ve had to deal with late cuts to some vocational courses, the complete loss of Young Apprenticeships whilst picking a path through the implications of the English Baccalaureate introduction. This meant a lot of students made unsatisfactory or chaotic choices. But there is hope. Heads now have more leeway to focus their (admittedly) meagre resources on whatever areas they see fit. No longer do we have to take the sole provider of a service and work with them. We can design a service, shout and persuade to its benefits and hope that we create enough of a snowball and enough Heads agree to make it worthwhile. It needs to be done quickly sure (the academic calendar keeps on ticking and a whole year group of students shouldn’t be let down) but I still think some sort of workable service that is suitable for purpose can be salvaged.

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