£500m needed to bring sector into line

June 14, 2002

The government's proposals for reforming 14-to-19 educationand training could cost nearly £500 million a year, funding chiefs have warned.

The extra money would be needed to bring funding per student in further education colleges up to school levels, and to offer all 14 to 19-year-olds a broader curriculum including more vocational and work-based learning options, the Learning and Skills Council has said.

In its response to the 14 to 19 green paper, the LSC adds its voice to calls from college employers and lecturers' union leaders for more money to combat a staff recruitment and retention crisis in FE.

The "wide and growing" pay and conditions gap between colleges and schools "must be addressed urgently", the LSC's response paper warns.

It would cost an additional £280 million a year to put college funding levels on a par with schools, and another £75 million a year to fund work-based learning at the same level as school sixth forms, the LSC estimates. Another £100 million would be needed annually to enable 200,000 14 to 19-year-olds to pursue vocational options, and up to £150 million over five years to cover associated capital costs.

Bryan Sanderson, the LSC's chairman, said college funding was "a bit like playing uphill on Yeovil's famous old sloping pitch, but never changing ends".

The LSC welcomes most of the green paper's proposals, but calls for caution in the plans for an overarching matriculation diploma.

"The council is clear that an overarching award must be inclusive, with all young people achieving at least a foundation (or equivalent) level," it says.

Work on the diplomas "should not distract attention or divert energy and resources from implementing the rest of the 14 to19 curriculum", it adds.

* Vice-chancellors have questioned the usefulness of the green paper's proposed matriculation diploma, writes Alan Thomson.

Universities UK's submission welcomes the general idea of a diploma as a move towards parity of esteem between academic and vocational awards. The diploma would credit what the green paper calls "wider activities" as well as formal qualifications. Wider activities might include voluntary or paid work and other community activities.

UUK wanted to know what value the diploma would add to the range of formal and other achievements that institutions already considered when offering places to candidates.

UUK is also worried about a possible negative effect of the proposal to drop compulsory foreign language teaching, design and technology, and arts and humanities as core curriculum subjects for pupils aged over 14.

It said the move could reduce students' opportunities for study in higher education, according to the submission.

The steering group of the Nuffield Languages Programme, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, said that the proposal could have catastrophic implications for languages learning in the UK.

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