Headlines: February 18th, 2004

Local authorities are looking at how they can play a leading role in reshaping the education service, following the proposed reforms to education for 14 to 19 year olds, set out in the report from Mike Tomlinson, the former head of OFSTED. Head teachers, meanwhile have welcomed the report.Responding to the Tomlinson proposals, Gareth Matthewson, the president of the National Association of Head Teachers said reform was long overdue and the report provided a long-term vision for the 14-19 education system by providing an agenda that meets many of the criticisms of the current examination framework. Mr. Matthewson said there could be no justification for business or higher education to reject the proposals. They gave employers virtually everything they wanted and provided universities with an advanced Diploma suitable for entrance to higher education.

The more flexible approach to learning proposed by Mike Tomlinson was praised by the Local Government Association, which said it was desperately needed. But it warned that the reform could not be carried out in isolation. The LGA said the multitude of qualifications currently available did not offer young people the flexibility to blend academic and vocational learning and the wealth of supposedly equivalent qualifications made it increasingly difficult for employers to differentiate between them.

The Association warned that work on reforming the education of 14 to 19 year olds had to be driven forward and expanded to ensure it produced real benefits. Change, it said, should be driven as much by the fact that half of pupils fail to achieve 5 good GSCEs as by those pupils who get numerous A grades. It should also tackle the fact that the UK had one of the lowest staying on rates after 17 in the industrialised world.

The LGA called for steps to be put in place to join together the agencies involved in delivering education to provide an infrastructure that was collaborative and effective and that maximised resources. It said that local authorities, as democratically elected bodies, were sensibly placed to co-ordinate that work and it is currently working with interested partners to look at the role local councils can play in leading an education service that fitted the nature of today’s working environment.