News at 10 item on Connexions

News at 10 featured a very good item on the changes to Connexions and careers last night. You can see it at



Using tweeting and vlogging to record young people???s experiences

Thanks to Mark Morris for this guest post on some of the work that he’s been doing in raising aspirations and building understanding of higher education using vlogging and tweeting…

Students from three schools in Bridgwater, Somerset participated in a two day residential event at Keele University on July 7th and 8th that was put together by Aimhigher and Keelelink in collaboration with local careers company Connect South West and some support from Somerset County Council.

Students were to experience a taster of life at Keele University and share their experience in real time via Twitter at #aiming4more whilst also capturing thoughts on a video blog (vlogging) to view at a later time.

The background

We wanted to capture students experiences during their formation of impressions and views rather than use the traditional methods of writing them up. We had an opportunity to trial this idea at a residential AimHigher event. Our intention was to film a video blog to develop as a resource and to have the students tweet about their experiences and how the event was making them think or feel differently.

The value in using social media for an event like this is in community building, connecting young people who share similar interests and getting them to exchange ideas and thoughts in an engaging way that they are familiar with. The students were encouraged to share links and other information relevant to what they were learning on the taster using the #aiming4more twitter feed.

Thoughts and reflections

Comments from the AimHigher Coordinator

  • It is a really good way of capturing student views and impressions actually as they are developing, before these are ‘lost’
  • It prompts students to interpret their experiences and encourages them to form their own views and opinions about them
  • It promotes the involvement of all participants and is very interactive, including those students who might tend to be more naturally passive
  • It allows the students to describe their experiences in a more informal way, using their own language, compared to more structured approaches
  • It enables students to receive a quick personalised response to their comments and questions in ‘real time’ so they feel involved and part of the learning process
  • Potentially, it is an approach that young people are more familiar/comfortable with, rather than one which we, as adults, would feel to be best.

Capturing the moment and telling stories

This particular event took a community of individuals and placed them in an unfamiliar situation. As the multimedia assistant commented “The teachers gave great feedback about the AimHigher scheme and were constantly saying how good the experience was, how it was great that the students were staying overnight because actually the accommodation at university is half the shock.”

Rather than losing this experience, we were able to capture this on film.

“There was certainly a lot of positive feedback to camera after the two days before the coach trip back.  The students enjoyed the variety of lectures, especially enjoyed the sports and felt that they do now want to go to university where they had previously been put off by the fees.” 
Multimedia assistant.  

This opportunity provided us with an experience of exploring careers work in a different way. It allowed us to try and capture the stories of young people experiencing a life changing event and to share that with a wider community as it is happening.

Building on this approach

There were many positives, but there were learning points.

The multi media involvement in this project was at a fairly late stage and certainly our experience emphasised the need for good organisation and communication with all parties concerned.  This was particularly true when trying to adapt working practices that were geared to a traditional way of recording through log books, especially when the new approach involved greater reflection on the part of participants.

The project was heavily reliant on technology and at times this proved unreliable and led to difficulties in recording views.

Although many of the students used Twitter, we were working with students who were out of their usual environment and having to deal with a variety of new experiences and at times this could be overwhelming for them and this hindered capturing their views.
Comments from the Connect South West multimedia assistant on the challenge of capturing the students views:

“Had we had time I would have liked to meet the students in their normal school environment to explain our thoughts, get feedback and improve our plans.  I think the students would have been more comfortable around me as well, and I could have picked out the students more willing to take part and worked on the students less willing to break down the barriers.”

“Students would talk to their teachers about what their thoughts were, but the teachers would only tell me this was happening over meal time in the evening – the moment had long since passed.  I attempted to resolve this by organising some time with the student groups with their teachers to film.  In some cases this went really well, the students opened up easily and were very casual on film.”

Would we do it again?

Yes. We saw this as very much an experiment and we were unsure how it would work. Both the AimHigher Coordinator and the multimedia assistant felt that although there were challenges, there was considerable value to using social media and video style blogging to record experiences relevant to careers work.

And for the views of the students –  see the Tweet Feed at #aiming4more

To view a short video on the event see

Connect South West is an award winning provider of careers services and work experience and enterprise solutions with more than 35 years’ experience in the careers market. Further details on Connect South West are available on the web at  on Twitter #connectswciag

If you would like more details on this project please contact Mark Morris, Information & Marketing Manager, Connect South West  on 01823 692506

Participation by 16-19 year olds in education and training

A new report on the Participation by 16-19 year olds in education and training was release a couple of days ago from the Education Select Committee.  

Thankfully it contained the following on careers services – might be worth an email to your MP to ask what they are doing about this.

Careers services

25. We recognise the difficult financial circumstances in which local authorities finthemselves. However, the sharp reduction in the availability of career guidance services for young people outside schools is damaging and should not be allowed to continue. Any reductions in Connexions services should be proportionate, and local authorities should respect the duty imposed by Parliament. The Government should assess local authorities’ compliance with their statutory duties and should not hold back from taking legal action, if necessary, to ensure compliance. (Paragraph 148)

26. We believe that there should be some form of clear accountability measure for the quality, impartiality and extent of career guidance services in schools. We recommend that Ofsted school inspections should, as part of the pupil achievement strand within the framework for inspection of schools, assess specifically whether schools are meeting their statutory duty to secure the provision of independent and impartial career guidance. (Paragraph 155)

27. We recommend that the all age careers service should be funded by the Department for Education for face to face career guidance for young people. (Paragraph 156)

28. We recommend that the Department’s consultation on the age of pupils for whom schools should provide career guidance should be extended to examine the case for the statutory duty to apply to pupils in Year 7. (Paragraph 160)


We are just in the process of finalising our paper on the transitional situation in relation to the Connexions service. The paper is provisionally entitled “Careers Work with Young People: Collapse or Transition? An analysis of current developments in careers work with young people in England.” We hope that is can be a useful contribution to policy in this area.

We have now had reports from 144 of the 150 English Local Authorities. However we still haven’t heard from:

  • City of London
  • Doncaster
  • Lancashire
  • North Lincolnshire
  • Rutland
  • Southampton

We would also appreciate further information on the following Local Authorities. In particular information about what shape services are taking and how the authories are relating to schools.

  • Barnet
  • Barnsley
  • Enfield
  • Hartlepool
  • Isles of Scilly
  • Islington
  • Knowsley
  • Lambeth
  • Leicester
  • Leicestershire
  • Northumberland
  • Oldham
  • Rochdale
  • Solihull
  • Southwark
  • St Helens
  • Walsall
  • Wandsworth
  • Warrington
  • Westminster
  • Wigan

Thanks again for any further information that people can provide.

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain


I’ve recently finished David Eagleman’s Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. As an introduction to neuroscience I rather enjoyed it. In essence his main points are:

  • The brain is complicated.
  • It is really complicated, just think about how vision works. It is much less straightforward than you think.
  • The brain is made up of lots of different competing bits. They are often telling you to do different things for different reasons. In a situation like this it is basically pointless to think about which opinion/aspect of your personality is the real you. They are all the real you, you just have to live with the contradictions. For example you are at once hardwired to be faithful to your partner and to cheat on them. This makes life interesting if not easy.
  • Your brain is all that there is. If you mess around with the biology (cut bits out, take drugs etc.) you change you. This is obvious when you do something major like stick a spike through your head, but is also true when you do something subtle. In effect this makes it difficult to see people’s actions as anything other than the outcome of the interplay between their biology and their environment. If this is true it has big implications for things like crime and punishment.
  • We are still only scratching the surface of what neuroscience will tell us. In the future we are likely to know a lot more.

Well worth a read I’d say.

Careers work in transition: Draft paper

Tomorrow representatives of the DFE and local government will be meeting to discuss the transition arrangments following the substantial cuts to Connexions. I have been working with Tony Watts to produce a paper to summarise the current situation in England’s 150 local authorities which we hope can inform this meeting and provide an evidence base for conversations.

The versions below are the current draft of the paper and the dataset that has been assembled to support it. We intend to revise the paper following tomorrows meeting and then publish this by the end of the month. I would therefore be interested in any further information or opinions that people can pass to me about the situation in their locality.