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Realistic expectations: accounting for young people's progress in training programmes

Carol Devanney (School of Applied Social Sciences, University of Durham, Durham, UK)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 23 January 2009




This paper aims to communicate the challenges and tensions faced by front‐line workers in negotiating the demands of performance targets and those of the young people they work with.


An in‐depth study, over a two‐year period, of a number of training programmes combining participant observation and qualitative directed data collection.


Workers need to be sensitive to young people's previous educational experiences and social context while encouraging participation in education‐based work. Personal problems had to be addressed if progress towards the target of education, employment or training was to be achieved. Effective programmes rely on the front‐line workers but systems of accountability do not recognise the breadth of this work in handling the wider personal situations of young people. The role of training programmes needs to be better understood within this wider socio‐economic context.

Research limitations/implications

The study is of a small number of training programmes so it is not possible to generalise from the findings. A limitation of the paper is that the ethical, moral and practical implications of the study are not explored.

Practical implications

This paper extends our understanding of the complexity involved in the delivery of training programmes for young people.


Providing practitioners working in training settings with an account of the work which may address some of the criticisms often levelled at them. It has potential value to inform policy development, implementation and future forms of accountability.



Devanney, C. (2009), "Realistic expectations: accounting for young people's progress in training programmes", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 8-20.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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