Select Committee on Education and Skills First Special Report

Appendix 3

Sixth Report from the Education and Skills Committee, Session 2004-05, National Skills Strategy: 14-19 Education, HC 37-I and HC 37-II.

The skills agenda

Skills and productivity

Conclusion/Recommendation 1

There was a broad consensus amongst our witnesses that improving the skills of those in the labour market would assist in improving the productivity of businesses, but only if the other factors identified as important were also addressed. A more highly skilled workforce is therefore seen as necessary, although it is not by itself a sufficient condition for increased productivity.

Skills are one of the key drivers to increased productivity. The Government's national Skills Strategy is making the necessary steps to address the nation's skills shortages by ensuring employers have the skills needed for successful businesses and individuals have the skills needed to be employable and personally fulfilled.

International studies show that lower levels of skills in the UK workforce have led to lower output per employee, but the gap with competitors is narrowing. The Government recognises that skills are only one of the many factors that lead to differences in productivity. Analysis shows that lower UK skills levels contribute up to 20% of the productivity gap with France and Germany, but the US advantage over the UK for example is driven largely by their intensive use of physical capital.

Skills training or general education

Conclusion/Recommendation 2

If the Government is serious about addressing the needs of business, it is vital for it to be aware of what businesses want from young people when they emerge from the education system into the labour market. The education system aims to assist individuals to achieve the highest level of attainment possible in their chosen field. An employer is looking for someone who can make a significant contribution to the business rather than someone necessarily with particular qualifications. These two approaches are not inherently incompatible, but currently educators and employers do not work together effectively enough.

The Government recognises the need to be aware of what employers want from young people and for educators and employers to work more effectively together. Our focus remains firmly fixed on delivering the improvements to the system that employers demand. That is why the Government listened to employers' views and concerns as we prepared our reforms for the education of 14 to 19 year-olds and in light of those discussions continues to develop a coherent strategy for engaging employers.

These plans include:

a)  equipping young people with skills that are relevant to the workplace by:

  • continuing with successful Increased Flexibility Programme;
  • giving greater emphasis to English, maths and ICT skills within GCSEs and the new Diplomas for 14 to 19 year olds;
  • encouraging more people to gain higher level skills in education or in the workplace;
  • helping schools to deliver work-related learning with the help of 300,000 employers. This process is supported by organisations such as Education Business Partnerships, and currently subject to a strategic review by the LSC;
  • focusing on developing skills such as team-working and enterprise skills; and
  • giving more young people the opportunity to apply for an Apprenticeship.

b)  introducing a new National Employer Training Programme (NETP) which will deliver publicly-funded skills training in a way that is directly led by the needs of employers;

c)  establishing better links between universities and business to share ideas and innovations through the Higher Education Innovation Fund;

d)  giving employers more opportunity to identify those skills which can improve the success and productivity of their businesses, and to support regional plans for economic development through the new Sector Skills Agreements and Regional Skills Partnerships;

e)  ensuring that employers through their Sector Skills councils play a central role in developing a range of specialised diplomas that have currency in the labour market and meet the needs of employers.


Our judgement is that what employers want most of all is young people who are literate, numerate and work-prepared (that is accepting responsibility, open to learning and able to work with others) when leaving the education system, rather than people who have had training in specific skills. The means by which this is achieved, however may well be education based on real life tasks.

The Government agrees. This analysis mirrors exactly the employer-led messages which have guided a wide range of existing education and training policies and programmes. These include the key skills qualifications (Communication, Applied Number, ICT—introduced in 2000); the Skills for Life strategy (2001); Vocational GCSEs (2002); the Increased Flexibility Programme (2002); Apprenticeships (relaunched in 2004) and the wider key skills qualifications (Working with Others, Problem Solving, Improving Learning and Performance—updated in 2004). In all of these, the focus has been on making learning relevant and motivating by grounding it in actual work or work-related tasks.

The 14-19 White Paper sets out two main ways in which we will now build further upon these foundations. First, we will ensure that practical, applied skills are included in all English, maths and ICT qualifications for young people and adults. From 2008 (English, ICT) and 2009 (maths) all GCSEs will include new 'functional skills' components, which must be passed if a grade C or higher is to be achieved. Similarly, functional skills will be required within the new specialised Diplomas. We have asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) to lead the development of these new components, working with employers, HE and other users to ensure that teaching and assessment is related to every day tasks (e.g. using readily available software for ICT programmes).

Second, in addition to the functional skills, we will develop a clear framework to underpin opportunities for all young people to develop the thinking, learning and personal skills that typify the work-prepared. This will build on the wider key skills (see above); the 14-19 Working Group's proposals on common knowledge, skills and attributes; and we have asked for QCA's advice on embedding thinking, learning and personal skills in the curriculum at Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14) and across the 14-19 phase. The specialised Diplomas will be designed to provide the blend of generic and specific skills needed as the starting point for sustainable employability.

The framework of thinking, learning and personal skills will inform the delivery of education based on real life tasks, and so act as a powerful tool for integrating learning about or at work with other forms of learning. The framework will also inform development of the Extended Project, a single piece of work requiring planning, preparation, research and independent working. Learners destined for higher education will be expected to demonstrate similar personal and interpersonal abilities as those who pursue work-oriented learning.

Finally, the White Paper on Skills: Getting on in business, getting on in work also emphasises our intentions to equip young people with the literacy, language and numeracy skills necessary for the world of work. These reforms will ensure that irrespective of where a learner begins or continues their learning journey; whether at school; college; post-16 provider; or in the workplace, they have access to the same level of ambition and a level playing field of the same teaching, learning, assessment and qualification infrastructure.

Working across Government

Conclusion/Recommendation 4

The DfES has a tricky balancing act to perform. It is the lead department for education and training, but it must always guard against seeing things solely from the provider's point of view. It would not be the best use of the substantial resources being committed to this sector if policies on skills, and the education and training arising from them, become dominated by supply side education and training, rather than being integrated with policy on the other productivity drivers by engaging with the decision makers on boards and in senior management in employing organisations.

14-19 Education and Skills is a White Paper which was agreed across Government, and the different Departments of State are working together, as necessary, in the delivery of reforms. For example, work on Apprenticeships is taken forward by a cross-Departmental Steering Group and the review of financial support for 16-19 year olds is led by a Ministerial tripartite group (from HMT, DfES and DWP), with officials working as a cross-departmental team to develop and deliver reforms. A 14-19 external advisory group, chaired by the Minister of State for Schools, is being established to involve a range of practitioners to support effective delivery of the 14-19 reforms.

As the Education and Skills Committee's report states, the DfES is not solely concerned with the suppliers of education and training. The primary focus of the DfES is always on outcomes for children, families, young people and learners and, ultimately, on reforms which improve social inclusion and skills and productivity for the nation. The introduction to the Department's 5 Year Strategy published in July 2004 makes clear that the DfES is fully aware that "the parts of the system are (and are seen as being) interlinked and interdependent".

One of the main ways that the 14-19 White Paper demonstrates this interdependence in the system is through employers in Sector Skills Councils taking the lead (working with Higher Education, with the Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and with other stakeholders) in designing new specialised Diplomas and in establishing national Skills Academies which will have a leading role in delivering the new specialised Diplomas.

14-19: a separate phase?

Conclusion/Recommendation 5

It is vital that, in putting forward initiatives to address problems in 14-19 education, the links backwards into Key Stages 3, 2 and 1, and the links forward into Further Education and Higher Education, are not overlooked.

The Government supports the Select Committee's recommendation that in addressing problems in 14-19 education, we should consider links backwards into the previous Key Stages.

If all pupils are to make the most of the opportunities open to them in the 14-19 phase then by 14 years old they need a firm grounding in the basics and need to be engaged in a broad and rich curriculum. The 14-19 White Paper confirmed our commitment to review the Key Stage 3 curriculum in order to improve its coherence in subjects where there are problems, to reduce the overall level of prescription, and allow more scope for schools to stretch their pupils and help those who fall behind expected standards to catch up. Through the Secondary National Strategy and the New Relationship with Schools, we will ensure that schools are supported and challenged to use this additional freedom. The White Paper also set out how we plan to strengthen our emphasis on English and maths, in particular by expecting schools to focus systematically on those pupils who arrive from primary school below the expected level.

In reviewing Key Stage 3, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority will consider how any recommended changes will impact on the transition from Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 and will advise the Secretary of State if there is a risk of disjuncture between the Key Stages.

The Government also agrees with the Committee that links forward into Higher Education should be kept in mind as the 14-19 agenda evolves. We already reflect those links in our internal programme management arrangements. It is already the case that changes in higher education (HE) take appropriate account of the progression of 14-19 students in school and college. A notable example is Foundation Degrees, which will provide a valuable way of meeting the needs of young people and mature students coming from vocational routes. The White Paper makes clear that higher education will have a role, alongside employers, in designing specialised Diplomas to ensure they provide a good route into higher education.

Educational maintenance allowances

Conclusion/Recommendations 6 and 7

If the national implementation of EMAs is as effective as it has been in the pilot areas, it will significantly improve staying on rates. We therefore welcome the decision to implement EMAs nationally. We also welcome the way in which the initiative was piloted and assessed before the national roll-out. This is the approach to policy development and implementation that we would like the DfES to employ as a matter of course.

It is unacceptable that young people can leave school at sixteen and go into employment without any guarantee that they will receive education or training in the period up until they are eighteen. We believe that one of the main tests of whether the Government's plans are successful will be whether the amount of training for young people in employment increases substantially.

In England, more than 293,000 young people are receiving EMA payments under the national scheme as at 10 May 2005. By 2006, EMA will support over 400,000 young people in staying on in education or training thereby improving the education and economic prospects for themselves, their families and the nation as a whole.

In the pilot, EMA increased Year 12 (age 16) participation in full-time education by 5.9 percentage points amongst eligible young people, with a further increase in Year 13 (age 17) due to improved retention. EMA reduced the number of young people entering the 'Not in Education, Employment or Training' (NEET) group at 16 by 2.7 percentage points.

The projection is that national EMA will increase participation in education at Year 12 by 3.8 percentage points, and by 4.1 percentage points amongst Year 13s, across the full cohort.

The Government estimates this will mean that in its first year (2004-05) EMA will cause an additional 35,000 young people to participate in further education, and reduce the number in NEET by 9,000. When fully rolled out in 2006-07 we estimate that EMA will be causing an additional 72,000 young people to be participating in further education.

The Government wants to ensure that every young person has the financial support and incentives they need to participate in learning. That is why from April 2006, we will be removing the distinction between education and training by extending Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit to the families of unwaged trainees on work based learning programmes organised by Government. EMA will also be extended to unwaged trainees and will replace the Minimum Training Allowance. This will cover around 100,000 young people a year on Entry to Employment and Programme Led Pathways to Apprenticeship. We are also working to achieve minimum pay levels of £70-80 a week for Apprentices in England.

We know that at any one time there are around 150,000 16 and 17 year olds in the UK who are in employment with no training. To increase access to training options for this group, we are allocating £80 million over two years to pilot a Learning Agreement in eight areas of England.

The Government is also allocating an additional £60 million over two years to pilot Activity Agreements and an Activity Allowance in eight areas of England. The pilots will offer 16-17 year olds who are not in education, employment or training support in return for a commitment to progress towards formal learning.

14-19 Pathfinders

Conclusion/Recommendation 8

We welcome the establishment of the 14-19 Pathfinders and the programme of independent evaluation that has been put in place. Given the Government's commitment to a greater provision of education and training collaboratively between institutions in an area, we recommend that guidance based on what has been learned from the 14-19 Pathfinders is issued so that those in charge of making such collaborative arrangements are advised on what works well, and what issues are likely to cause problems.

One of the key aims of the Government's 14-19 Pathfinders Programme is to identify good practice, and to make this widely available to all those involved in planning and delivering the 14-19 phase of education and training.

A manual of Guidance and Good Practice is being produced to draw together lessons and good practice from across the 39 pathfinders. As well as presenting guidance and case studies on a number of themes, the manual will set out successful delivery models of collaboration in different socio-economic and geographical circumstances. It will also highlight practical tips and strategies for overcoming barriers and for sustaining the good practice in the longer term.

The manual will be made available as a web-based tool in academic year 2005-06, and we will implement a well-targeted and focussed communications strategy to ensure that all key stakeholders can benefit from it.

In the meantime, a pathfinder site on the DfES 14-19 Gateway ( presents information on the programme, and includes video footage of pathfinders, and good practice case studies. Findings from the national evaluation of the programme are also made available there. In addition, pathfinders themselves are networking locally and regionally through conferences, workshops and newsletters, to share good practice amongst each other and with non-pathfinder areas.

The Government is also exploring the use of 'champions' in 2005-06 academic year, not only to disseminate good practice but also to help partnerships adopt, embed and replicate the good practice on collaborative working from the pathfinders programme.

14-19 reform

Current curriculum and qualifications

Conclusion/ Recommendation 9

One of the main problems with the current situation is that for those pupils who find study for GCSEs and A levels uninteresting or unmanageable there is no obvious main alternative.

The Government recognises that GCSEs and A levels are not necessarily the most suitable qualifications for all. Some alternatives do already exist. We have introduced 8 GCSEs in vocational subjects and there are 10 A levels in Applied Subjects.

The Government wants to go further to meet the needs of all young people. QCA is working with awarding bodies to develop GCSEs which contain a common core, but then have a choice of general or vocational options within them. GCSEs of this sort are being piloted for science and history.

The introduction of specialised Diplomas will provide new opportunities for young people to take qualifications at which they can succeed and which then prepare them to progress to the next level.

Conclusion/Recommendation 10

In common with the qualification system as a whole, but perhaps more significantly, given that it is a work-based programme, there is no credit system for Apprenticeships, so anyone who does not complete an apprenticeship would have to start from the beginning if they wished to resume their training.

Apprenticeship frameworks contain three main assessed components: an assessment of occupational competence, an NVQ; a vocationally related qualification which tests the knowledge and understanding underpinning the skills required for the occupation; and transferable key skills.

It is not accurate to say that an apprentice with a break in their training would have to start from the beginning. Their achievements towards the Apprenticeship completion certificate are portable, as are completed NVQ units. In addition, QCA, Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA) are working with Sector Skills Councils to make sure that the development of the QCA proposals on a Framework for Achievement is capable of applying to apprenticeships.

An apprentice who starts an apprenticeship develops knowledge and skills throughout their apprenticeship, gaining qualifications that are valuable in their own right but which are components of the apprenticeship. In that sense apprenticeships are a credit based system already. When completed, the apprenticeship is recognised by the sector through the issuing of an Apprenticeship completion certificate.

We will continue to improve the quality and broaden the reach of employment-based training through Apprenticeships, which will in due course be integrated within the new specialised Diploma arrangements.

Government proposals

Conclusion/Recommendation 11

The Government had asked the Working Group to look at ways of establishing a unified framework of qualifications, and Charles Clarke's response when asked about how its proposals met his five tests was positive. The reaction to the Government's change of heart is unsurprising, given that for two years the impression had been that Ministers were in favour of more radical change.

The Government is grateful to the Working Group on 14-19 Reform for their work in developing a challenging vision of the future of 14-19 education and training. The Government shares, and has built upon, the Working Group's analysis of the weaknesses and strengths of the existing system and of the way forward. As the Committee report acknowledges, we have adopted many of the major recommendations in the report, such as the need for a strong core to all young people's learning and a radical transformation of the vocational pathways available to young people.


Ultimately the Government decided that it was not worth the risk to change from known and understood qualifications and move to a system which, while it mirrored practice in much of Europe was unfamiliar in England.

The ten year implementation was clearly also problematic. The need to sustain political consensus for change across two or three Parliaments on matters as politically contentious as educational standards and outcomes was always fraught with difficulties. To have set out to bring in the unified diploma but to have failed could have seriously damaged confidence in the education system. Nevertheless, we urge that the matter of integration of GCSEs, A levels and vocational qualifications within a unified diploma be kept under review.

The White Paper sets out a bold reform that builds on existing strengths. It addresses historic weaknesses: quality, functional skills, staying on rate, choice, and tailoring to the individual. It seeks to transform radically the opportunities and life chances of all young people.

In the light of developments that are outlined in the White Paper, we will discuss with employers and universities whether their needs are being met and the case for introducing greater challenge and breadth alongside A levels. The Government will review progress in 2008.

The new diplomas

Conclusions/Recommendations 14 and 15

It is imperative that as large a cross section of employers as possible is drawn into the development process for the new diplomas. The Sector Skills Councils and employer organisations must do their utmost to reach small and medium-sized enterprises and seek their views, as well as the views of the large corporations. Employers must seize this opportunity to influence what is taught as preparation for work in their sectors. If they do not, they will not be able to blame others if entrants to the labour market do not possess the skills they are seeking.

The weakness and fragmentation of the vocational education that is currently on offer is a serious problem, and if the new awards succeed in attracting students and are valued by employers that will signal a substantial achievement.

The Government believes that employers will have a key role in determining what the 'lines of learning' should be and in deciding what the specialised Diplomas should contain. Indeed, employers have a real opportunity here to design qualifications which deliver the skills, attributes and knowledge they require. Employer involvement can also make the difference between an exciting and useful exercise in learning and a course which fills time but has no value in the labour market. The specialised Diplomas will only matter to young people if they are valued by employers. Work on developing the specialised Diplomas has started and Sector Skills Councils have begun to consult their employers on aspects of the new qualifications.

The Government recognises that good quality courses are available, but too many young people are undertaking poor quality training leading to narrow qualifications which are not widely enough recognised in the labour market or by higher education institutions to be really useful to them. It is vital we provide high quality routes which equip young people with the knowledge and skills they need for further learning and skilled employment.


We also welcome the fact that Apprenticeships will be brought within the diploma framework. This was part of the Working Group's proposals, and addresses the concern that there is no specific qualification relating to apprenticeships. Apprenticeship will now be a qualification, rather than just a programme of study.

We will continue to improve the quality and broaden the reach of employment-based training through Apprenticeships, which will in due course be integrated within the new specialised Diploma arrangements.


For those who consider that the quest for a unified qualifications framework should not be abandoned, the review of methods of providing challenge and breadth in A levels promised for 2008, which coincides with the introduction of the first four diploma lines, might provide some hope. Once one sort of diploma is in place, it might make the unified diploma seen more achievable.

The Government's response to Conclusions/Recommendations 12 and 13 addresses these points.


Conclusion/ Recommendation 18

The Government mentions briefly a plan for a credit system for diplomas which would allow young people to complete qualifications as adults, with the provision of links across to adult qualifications. A system of credits would act as a real incentive for some young people to continue in education and training and we strongly support the Government's proposals.

The Government is aware of the benefits the credits system brings to adults and will consider the scope for coordinating specialised Diplomas with the credit framework proposed for adults.


Conclusion/Recommendation 19

In bringing forward its detailed plans on assessment, the Government should clarify whether it considers the burden of assessment across Years 11, 12 and 13 is appropriate

The Government is committed to reducing the overall burden of assessment.

At the moment for students in Year 11, stretch comes from taking large numbers of GCSEs. Where this increases breadth it can be highly valuable. However, sometimes young people are taking several very similar GCSEs. In these instances we need to make sure that young people can stretch themselves in other ways, such as accelerating to achieve level 2 or level 3 qualifications early or through recognised enrichment activities. This may also help to reduce the burden of assessment on young people in Year 11.

In addition, we think that there is scope to lessen the coursework burden, particularly by reducing it where the same knowledge and skills can be tested reliably in other ways. We have asked QCA to undertake a review of GCSE coursework and look at ways to reduce the cumulative burden of coursework.

At A level we plan to reduce the number of assessment units without changing the content. Currently most A levels have 6 units, each separately assessed and sometimes by more than one exam paper. In future most A levels will have four larger units, covering the same amount of content, but only four assessments. This will reduce the assessment burden by a third.

The Government also seeks to maximise the potential of e-assessment. For example, QCA are already exploring a range of different forms of moderation of practical assessment in vocational and occupational qualifications. This should minimise the assessment burden on students, teachers and trainers.

Emphasising English and Maths

Conclusion/Recommendation 20

The changes being proposed to re-emphasise the functional elements of English and Maths in GCSE, and to recognise the achievement of those who achieve the functional elements only, are welcome.

The Government welcomes the Select Committee's views. New functional English and maths components—building on existing GCSE, Key Skills and Skills for Life provision—will be introduced within reformed GCSEs, to act as a guarantee to employers of a grounding in these basics. The intention is that no-one will be able to achieve GCSE grades A*-C in English or maths without achieving Level 2 in these components. GCSE ICT will also be reviewed to identify a functional ICT component.

These new functional English, maths and ICT components will also be available as discrete qualifications for those unable to achieve the full GCSEs. As with the current Key Skills qualifications and Skills for Life tests, these will be available for use both at Key Stage 4 and by all post-16 learners (including Apprentices and those taking the new specialised Diplomas). This will secure clarity, coherence and consistency of provision for all candidates post-14 and will realise the ambitions of both the 14-19 and Skills White Papers for a single, progressive series of awards for all levels and ages.


Conclusion/Recommendation 21

We hope that the changes in the qualifications and curriculum being brought forward will lead to an increase in attainment and in staying-on rates. The proposals on vocational education are serious and build on much of what the Working Group had proposed, and the changes to GCSE and A level, though relatively modest, should make real differences to students. The next stage is crucial: the design of the curriculum and qualifications, and the development of the ways in which they are to be delivered will determine the success or otherwise of the Government's plans.

The Government agrees with the Select Committee's conclusion that the next stages of the 14-19 reforms—curriculum design, system reform and implementation—are crucial. The Secretary of State has made it abundantly clear that 14-19 implementation is one of her top priorities for this Parliament. We are committed to publishing an implementation plan for the White Paper after the summer break.

The DfES already has rigorous and effective project management disciplines in place to ensure delivery of its strategies, including the 14-19 agenda. The Department has reviewed and updated the project management arrangements to include all the commitments in the 14-19 White Paper. As mentioned above (recommendation 4) a 14-19 external advisory group chaired by the Minister of State for Schools, is being established to involve practitioners in supporting effective delivery of the 14-19 reforms.

Infrastructure and delivery

Structure, funding and organisation

Conclusion/Recommendation 22

If the Government wants collaboration between various local providers it is going to have to move more quickly on the issue of differential funding. It is clear that there is very little scope in the funding allocations made up to 2007-8 for colleges to find money from within their own budgets for collaborative work. Extra money, either grants for collaborative work, or a significant increase in money available to colleges more generally, is going to be required. The logic of establishing a unified 14-19 curriculum is that it should be supported by a unified 14-19 funding methodology.

The Spending Review 2002 was the largest ever investment in Further Education (FE). Total funding for FE is set to rise by over £1 billion by 2005-06 when compared with 2002-03. The Government has brought up funding levels for FE as it said it would without penalising schools. LSC's funding rates per course in FE have been rising faster than school sixth forms—the gap has narrowed.

It is too early to say what the outcome of the 2004 Spending Review will mean for funding rates for 2006-07 and beyond. We have always said that continuing progress will depend on resources being available.

The Government recognises that there is more to overall levels of funding than differences in funding rates and acknowledges that there are other differences between school and FE funding, although these are difficult to quantify. Existing planned reforms and stability for school and LSC funding systems will free up providers to be more responsive to learner needs, including joining up resources to provide the highest quality provision.

The LSC flexible funding pot proposed in the 14-19 White Paper is designed to provide for additional costs arising from collaboratively delivered 14-19 programmes which are not covered from core funding e.g. coordination; transport etc. We have yet to determine the level of funding or detail of administrative arrangements for the flexible pot, but it is important that it should take account of best practice from the Increased Flexibility Programme (IFP) and 14-19 Pathfinders which are currently administered by LSC on behalf of and in agreement with local LEA-LSC partnerships. 


Increased and improved vocational education will require more staff who are suitably qualified in their subject areas and who are well-trained. Most of this vocational education is likely to take place within or via further education colleges, as they are more likely to have the existing provision. It will be difficult to attract these staff if they are rewarded less well than their counterparts in schools, and less well than if they were employed in industry or commerce.

General further education colleges and sixth form colleges are autonomous and independent corporations. As such they negotiate their own pay and conditions of service with staff and their unions without Government involvement.

Pay and recruitment arrangements in the sector are diverse. This reflects the fact that colleges have utilised the flexibilities available to them in order to meet differing local needs. The Government has no plans to change these arrangements.

However, the Government is making the largest ever investment in the FE sector. Total funding for FE is set to rise by over £1 billion by 2005-06 when compared with 2002-03.


It is hoped that the conclusions of the Strategic Area Reviews undertaken across the country will be used as a starting point for discussions on 14-19 provision under these proposals so there is no duplication of effort.

Strategic Area Reviews (StARs) are led by the Local LSC and encompass all post-16 provision. The aim is to improve quality and standards by reconfiguring FE College, Sixth Form College, school sixth form, work based learning and adult & community provision, as determined by local circumstances and priorities. StARs will in principle deal with unhelpful overlaps and identify gaps in provision as well as address breadth, quality and collaboration issues. Naturally, in reviewing post-16 provision local LSCs will have regard for the needs of 14-19 year olds in line with the Government's 14-19 and Success for All strategies.


We welcome the proposed expansion of collaborative working between schools, colleges and other institutions and organisations. However, there must be proper co-ordination in every area in order to make sure that collaborative provision works effectively and that institutions do not put their own desires for expanded sixth form provision above the general needs of provision in any given locality.

Successful schools will have a right to establish sixth form provision where there is pupil and parent demand and where this extends quality and choice for local students. Additional sixth form provision in such circumstances will support the aims of increasing learning opportunities for 14-19 year olds in an area.


More generally, there is a tension between the pressure for increased collective working between institutions and greater independence for schools, including the ability to become foundation schools. With LEAs being asked to perform a more strategic role but with few levers to encourage recalcitrant schools to do things they would prefer not to do, Government policy seems to be working in two incompatible directions.

The Government encourages high quality collaboration as a key complement to strong, autonomous institutions: the stronger the institutions within a partnership, the stronger that partnership is likely to be. In several local authority areas a majority of all secondary schools are already foundation schools or Voluntary Aided schools, and there is no evidence that collaboration in these areas is weak. The Government is encouraging partnerships with diverse and inclusive membership, for example through Education Improvement Partnerships which would include all types of maintained schools, independent schools, FE colleges and voluntary and private sector providers.

There is widespread recognition amongst both schools and local authorities of the benefits of collaborative working, and of the fact that partnerships can deliver broader and better services together than any school can on its own: this will be particularly significant, for instance, in ensuring maximum breadth of provision at 14-19 and in improving behaviour and attendance. Recognition of the benefits of partnership working, in itself, is proving to be a powerful incentive to collaborate.

School Improvement Partners, who will be contracted by Local Authorities, will also consider and challenge individual schools on what contribution they are making to their local learning community.

Information, advice and guidance

Conclusion/Recommendation 27, 28 and 29

Pupils are entitled to receive the most objective advice possible on their future education and career options, and careers guidance staff in schools must be fully aware of the different options available in order to allow pupils to make the most appropriate choices.

If Connexions becomes more focused on issues arising from Every Child Matters, and continues to concentrate on matters relating to those not in education or employment and training, it will emphasise the problem that, though it is designed to provide a universal service, a targeted service for those in most need will always be the priority at the expense of young people in general.

Connexions is a young organisation and if it is to be changed the reasons need to be sound. The service providing information, advice and guidance to young people needs stability and high quality provision. Constant reconfiguring of the service will cause confusion, and confusion about the provision of advice could have knock-on effects for the rest of the Government's plans.

The Government agrees that young people need high quality information, advice and guidance. This was emphasised in the 14-19 Education and Skills White Paper

The Government will be looking at how this can best be delivered in the context of the Youth Green Paper which will be published in due course.

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