The Challenge of Change: The Reebok Presentation

At the Conference of the North West IAG Partnerships at the Reebok Stadium, Bolton, a further presentation on the The Challenge of Change was undertaken. It used the same feedback questions as in the previous four launch seminars. (See website entry for February and report in News and Views Spring 2004.)

From: Jonathan Brown
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 0191 285 7445

For NAEGA Membership details (and additional copies of The Challenge of Change) contact the NAEGA Administrator at:

Email: [email protected]


The Challenge of Change: developing educational guidance for adults

North West IAG Conference Presentation - 27 February 2004

Feedback from pairs discussion


In the main it was possible to cluster the written responses around the two questions that delegates were asked to address. However there were a series of comments that were about tensions in the guidance role and practice that deserved separate heading of Tensions in guidance practice. Phrases in italics are direct quotation from the written responses.

Compared to previous groups those attending the Reebok event were more aware both individually and collectively of recent policy announcements on the future of IAG in England. This awareness and the accompanying concerns about future organisation and practice was well articulated both in the discussions on the day and in the written feedback sheets.

This feedback note will be posted on the NAEGA website where it will join feedback in a similar format from four previous Challenge of Change seminars.

A digest based on these first four reports is published in NAEGA News and Views, Spring 2004 [which also contains four papers on the recently published Information, Advice and Guidance for adults, the National Policy Framework and Action Plan]

Question 1: How far is the The Challenge of Change still relevant to your current practice?

1. In the main the report is still relevant. The terms used varied:

  • Still very relevant as best practice
  • Guidance workers could do with it
  • Still as valid as in the 1980s
  • Following the C of C will enhance the quality of any guidance given to adults
  • Underpins the way I work and always will
  • Relevant [also] to the wider context of career and employment guidance
  • Also applies to 14-16; 16-19 and a wide range of students/people dealt with through Colleges and advice events
  • Highly relevant to Colleges since the change to Connexions
  • Relevant to steps and processes... within libraries

2. There were comments on specific items/ideas in the report which were seen as being key ones. These comments included:

  • the seven activities
  • four processes
  • client-centredness: the principles concentrate on what the INDIVIDUAL wants. It puts clients and their needs at the heart of the process
  • guidance and curriculum development which needs to be further developed and addressed

3. There were some delegates who had not come across The Challenge of Change before: it is and was relevant but I was not aware of it. In addition the relevance of the 1986 report to current practice raised issues about training in guidance not only for guidance workers but also for tutors and librarians. The report highlights the need for trained professionals.

Question 2: What significant current issues are missing from The Challenge of Change?

1. The most significant 'missing' issues were those associated with IAG and the recently published Information, Advice and Guidance for adults: the National Policy Framework and Action Plan. These issues were expressed in a wide variety of ways and are echoed in the later 'tensions' section of this feedback. The issuess on IAG included:

  • IAG and the missing out of higher skills
  • Targets and a more cohesive approach
  • The Government's Skills for Life agenda
  • Timescales and quantifiable outcomes
  • The importance of the employer role: if they aren't on board IAG will not happen.
  • Funding and service continuity
  • Funding restrictions (what can we do for clients within such restrictions?)
  • Managing statistics and targets
  • Continuity from Connexions
  • Equal Opportunities

2. The importance of IT, the internet, CAG and Learndirect were noted as 'missing'. This applies not only to practitioners but also to clients: adults without ICT skills are now disadvantaged.

3. The impact on guidance practice of work with hard-to-reach groups of clients was a missing element. There is a need to overcome specific barriers. There was also concern about other 'special groups' including:

  • Basic skills
  • Refugees and others with language barriers. ESOL support is needed for guidance workers
  • Age discrimination
  • Rural clients
  • Those covered by the Disability Discrimination Act

4. Specific practice issues of IAG in the wider partnership setting. In schools, colleges (what is the role of tutors in FE?), the community and libraries. Not all clients will be seen by traditional guidance workers. Coal-face IAG below level 2 is provided by tutors not guidance practitioners. Also well articulated as 'missing' was guidance in the workplace.

5. Missing is the link to rentention, achievement and the economic case for guidance.

The 'Tensions' issue: Tensions in guidance practice

The structural arrangements do not balance the needs of the individual client on the one hand with employer needs and government policy on the other hand. In discussion at the Reebok Stadium the contrast between the rhetoric of the new IAG Framework policy with its avoidance of the word guidance with the quality standards (NVQs and matrix) which are based on client-centredness. This tension was expressed in a variety of ways including:

  • Tensions between the Government's Skills Agenda and individual needs
  • The skills status check (below NVQ 2) can cause embarrassment
  • Tension is created by external influences and pressures from targets and specific client groups
  • Managing statistics and achieving targets whislt ciontinuing to be client-centred
  • There is a struggle to provide a universal service against current targetting

The response to these tensions sharply divided delgates on the day and this is reflected in the paper comments. On the one hand there is the plea for the tight criteria for adult guidance to be broadened to provide a universal service. On the other hand is the view that this is an unreal agenda. The point of adult guidance being client-centred is all well and good, but it misses the point that guidance is funded to meet a national agenda i.e the competitiveness of the UK... perhaps we should be less impartial and actually start working towards a national agenda in terms of curriculum dvelopment and... forecasting of future skills needs. In this sense The Challenge of Change is not in the real world [but] funding for this ideal would be wonderful.

Mar 2004