Headlines: October 14th, 2003

The Local Government Association has criticised the 14 – 19 Learning Strategy White Paper. The Association argues that the paper equates skills with the possession of qualifications and it also fails to recognise the role of local authorities in ‘building learning communities’. The aim should be to ensure that where skills and learning are concerned, young people get the quality education they deserve, employers get the workforce they want and local authorities use their potential as a major employer to promote all forms of learning.Graham Lane, Chair of the Association’s Education and Lifelong Learning Executive, said: “The Skills Strategy White Paper significantly understates the role of local authorities. As the main provider of education from early years to secondary school, important partners with schools and colleges providing post-16 education, and major employers, no other organisation is better placed, nor has the commitment, to become the linchpin necessary to ensure that local skills needs will be met.

The Association is concerned that the multitude of qualifications that are currently available do not offer young people the flexibility to blend academic and vocational learning. It is becoming increasingly difficult for employers to differentiate between the wealth of supposedly equivalent qualifications. It proposes that there should be a new framework, possibly one where a standard diploma can be achieved at each level. This would end the current favouring of academic studies over vocational skills.

There is also warning of the impact that nationally set targets could have on the education system. The Association argues that reforms could be severely hampered by such measures, replicating the current obsession in the education system of teaching to exams.