Sixth Report from the Education and Skills Committee,
National Skills Strategy: 14-19
Education, HC 37-I and HC 37-II.
The skills agenda
Skills and productivity
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
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
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,
ICTintroduced 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 Performanceupdated 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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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.
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 (www.dfes.gsi.gov.uk/14-19) 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.
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
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
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
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
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.
CONCLUSION/RECOMMENDATION 12 AND 13
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
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.
A CREDIT SYSTEM
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.
THE BURDEN OF ASSESSMENT
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
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
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,
The Government welcomes the Select Committee's views.
New functional English and maths componentsbuilding on
existing GCSE, Key Skills and Skills for Life provisionwill
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.
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 reformscurriculum
design, system reform and implementationare 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
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
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 formsthe
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.