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Government's Post-16 learning plan - confusing & potentially damaging say Cambridgeshire Directors


Directors in Cambridgeshire describe the reforms for post-16 learning proposed by the government as overly bureaucratic and confusing. The 800 members of the Eastern Branch of the Institute of Directors believe the plans may be potentially damaging to the economy.
David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, has outlined the government's agenda on post-16 learning in a consultation document entitled "Learning to Succeed - A New Framework For Post-16 Learning".
The scheme involves setting up a National Learning and Skills Council (NLSC) - replacing the Further Education Funding Council and the TEC National Council - which would draw up a national plan for post-16 learning. This plan would then be implemented by 50 Local Learning and Skills Councils (LLSCs) which in turn would devise their local plans in conjunction with the Regional Development Agencies.
The consultation document is, however, unclear what the relationship will be between the LLSCs and new Local Learning Partnerships, Education Action Zones, Education Business Partnerships and Local Education Authorities, all of which currently have a stake in post-16 learning.
Local business leaders feel this top-down approach, along with the plethora of agencies trying to implement learning plans, would generate an expensive paper chase and degenerate into a bureaucratic form of centralised planning. They also think it is unclear to what extent the LLSCs would be responsible for learning and skills development for the post-14s - a critical age at which young people's future employability needs to be considered.
The plans do not indicate how employer involvement will be embedded into the new system for post-16 learning, nor how the flexibility required to delivered local skills needs will be implemented. To this end, employers feel the new LLSCs should have discretion over at least 15 to 20 per cent of their budgets so they can tailor training policies to meet local needs.
In the opinion of the Institute of Directors, unless the LLSCs have genuine freedom, employers are likely to shun the new system since they lack autonomy and only exist to execute the NLSC's plan. Attempts to enhance the provision of post-16 learning and training could, therefore, be jeopardised and local skills deficiencies would not be addressed if they do not match national priorities.
The NLSC and LLSCs must have a balance of educationalists and employers - if not a majority of the latter - as employers are best placed to know what training and education policies are required to meet existing needs. It should then be the responsibility of the LLSCs and NLSC to ensure there is sufficient flexibility in the qualifications available and their delivery to meet the nation's training requirements.

September 1999

For further information contact:

Stephanie Smye
Smye Holland Associates
63 Park Road
Tel: 01733 564906
Email: [email protected]

Link to The Institute of Directors main site

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