Headlines: November 17th, 2004

The need for employers to have greater recognition as stakeholders in further education must be recognized by colleges. Education Minister Charles Clarke has urged colleges to collaborate more fully to ensure that the needs of employers are understood and met so they are confident that learners will be equipped with the necessary skills, knowledge and attitudes. Closer collaboration will also ensure that learners have the confidence that their education will give them prospects in the future economy and society. To achieve this, employers need to contribute more to course development so that the supply side is geared up to provide what they want, when they want it and where they want it.Charles Clarke also wants colleges to diversify income sources, finding new business, and collecting more income from fees. They need to adopt a similar approach to Higher Education Institutions.

There was also a promise that the Government would also contribute to further education reforms by reducing bureaucracy and delivering more freedom to the frontline to develop quality improvement. The reform programme will reduce administrative costs and move money to frontline services. The burden of regulation will also be lightened.

The sector is steadily improving its performance. Student numbers have increased from around 3 million to around 4 million. College success rates have increased from 59 per cent in 2000/1 to 68 per cent in 2002/3. There are also a record number of apprenticeships with 255,000 young people on apprenticeship programmes today compared with 75,000 in 1997.

A new national strategic body is to be set up to drive forward quality improvement in the sector. The DfES is working closely with the Learning and Skills Development Agency in designing the new body.