Headlines: July 5th, 1999

Radical proposals for reforming post 16 learning have been published in the White Paper Learning to Succeed. It is planned to sweep away much that has been heavily criticised. The principal weaknesses are too few pupils stay on at school after 16; and standards are too variable. Also there is too little clarity, co-ordination and coherence between further education and training, and there are too many layers in contracting and funding. The new framework integrates developments already announced such as the University for Industry and personal learning accounts.

A key element of the proposals is a new tripartite responsibility between employers, learners and the Government. Employers will have a much enhanced role and greater influence. A new Learning and Skills Council is proposed with 40-50 local Learning and Skills Councils to develop local plans. It is also proposed to establish an independent inspectorate covering all work-related learning and training with responsibility for inspection of provision for 16-19 year olds.

The Local Government Association has criticised the proposals because they could lead to the nationalisation of 16 plus education. The Association wants more local involvement which, it claims, is essential if the plans are to succeed. It is particularly critical of the role of the local Learning and Skills Councils, describing them as unelected quangos.