Universities and colleges are to be given powers to provide secondary-level education independently of local education authorities.
The Learning and Skills Bill, published last week, will allow higher and further education institutions to provide fourth key-stage education for 16 to 19-year-olds without, as now, having to meet LEA or school governing body arrangements for the education of this group. They should consult such LEAs as they consider appropriate.
It is thought that most children in this category will be those who are currently registered at school and who undertake some studies at a local further or higher education college. Another group will be children who are being educated at home, have been excluded from school or are not registered at school.
But in return for the extra responsibility, the bill, which establishes the national Learning and Skills Council, confers new powers on the secretary of state for education, David Blunkett, to intervene in colleges' affairs. Intervention will be in "inverse proportion to success", according to the government.
Schedule eight revises existing powers. It gives the secretary of state the power to intervene in a college if there has been mismanagement or if educational standards have been identified by inspectors as weak or failing. The secretary of state can act on the recommendation of the LSC or on his own and can remove any or all of a college's governors and issue directions to that institution.
Standards will be enforced by schools inspectorate Ofsted, which is having its remit and budget expanded to cover all provision in further education colleges for 16 to 19-year-olds. The bill sets up a separate Adult Learning Inspectorate.
The LSC replaces the Further Education Funding Council and the training and enterprise councils. It will have a budget in excess of Pounds 5 billion and will be responsible for funding and planning all post-16 education and training, including school sixth forms, but excluding universities.