The final section of this chapter draws out the main implications in respect of future programme development and policy from the evaluation findings presented above. In terms of programme development it offers some lessons that may prove helpful to those seeking to establish similar services. The policy implications section summarises the influences of policy issues and factors on the GOAL programmes, and the messages for policy from the GOAL project’s experiences.
Implications for future programme development
One clear overarching message for future programme development emerges from this overview of the six GOAL guidance services: an effective educational guidance programme is one which matches the counselling model to the client need.
In practice, this means that the needs and the context of clients will be the key determining factor of the length, number and content of the guidance sessions, and thus in the amount of programme resource that is needed. Programmes that are built around a model where only one guidance session can be offered would do well to target counselling only to those clients who can be expected, because of their higher levels of motivation and/or clarity of direction, to be able to take the next step after a low-level, relatively low resource intervention. This type of programme may be more suited to an institutional environment such as a college, where potential pathways are more clearly defined and limited, clients have more pre-existing awareness of the range of available options, and counsellors have more in-depth knowledge about those options.
Programme developers embarking on more intensive counselling programmes need to consider how best to provide resources for counselling models (particularly with regard to the appropriate number of sessions) that provide the ongoing support that clients need in order to take the steps required to successfully achieve longer term outcomes such as enrolment on a course. In countries where the target group is particularly disadvantaged, very basic steps are necessary before larger steps can be taken in education or employment. Counsellors in Iceland refer to this process as “planting seeds” that may later grow.
Influence of policy
The existing policy environment affects each stage of the counselling journey, from advice to action to impact. Where that policy landscape is complex, this has impacts on the accessibility and transparency of information on educational and training opportunities. In such cases, substantial programme resources must be devoted to ensuring that counsellors are familiar with all the different possibilities open to clients.
We can see in the case of the Czech Republic, for example, how policy affected the “action to impact” stage. Although clients got good advice and were able to see the next steps, they were impeded from taking these steps because of financial barriers (the cost of education and training courses). Thus rolling out educational guidance of the type offered by GOAL on a wider basis in the Czech Republic will be hampered because there is no integrated system and support from the state budget that will enable low-educated clients to enrol in particular courses within the further education system.
Messages for policy
As this last example makes clear, the effectiveness of the guidance service (in terms of the outcomes such as educational enrolments) is heavily dependent on broader policy structures. Clients can gain information and motivation to progress in education, but if funding is lacking they are very unlikely to make that progress. This issues is discussed in greater detail in Chapter 11.
With regard to counselling models and factors such as number of sessions, there is a need for policy makers to support programme models that are appropriate for the chosen client groups. This would involve the development of clear pre-programme understandings between programme developers and policy funders regarding who the counselling is targeted at, what are realistic outcomes for those groups, and what resources are needed in terms of providing an appropriate counselling model in order to achieve those outcomes.