Blunkett's post-school unity

April 28, 1995

The Labour Party is drawing up plans for unifying education for the over-16s, with employers and training providers playing significant roles.

David Blunkett, the shadow education secretary, wants more sharing of facilities and staff between sixth forms, further education colleges and higher education institutions and a greater input from business and industry.

He is working closely with the party's employment team to review provision and funding in further and higher education, and to re-examine the value and effectiveness of employers' contributions to education and training.

In an interview with The THES, Mr Blunkett said he was looking for ways to "reconnect" the input of companies lost through a decline in day and block-release arrangements with colleges. Closer collaboration with employers could help broaden the curriculum.

Labour is also considering ways of building a tripartite funding regime for colleges and universities, with contributions from Government, students and companies.

Mr Blunkett's ideas will be explored in a Lifelong Learning policy document to be published next year. It will be a broadened version of the further and higher education paper Labour has been working on for the past 18 months. It will take on board adult education, distance learning, information technology, employment and training issues as well as looking at mainstream provision.

"I want to look at the contribution already being made by employers - to quantify it and ask whether it is going on the best possible investment - or do we have to take a deep breath and ask whether a lot is in fact being used ineffectively and often in short-term bursts," Mr Blunkett said.

Labour also wants to examine ways to make the post-school system more flexible and accessible. This could involve the creation of "what would amount to a British baccalaureate", Mr Blunkett said.

This would mean development of modular courses rather than sweeping away existing qualifications. It would also require more co-operation within and between further and higher education. "I would like to interchange facilities and staff between FE and HE in a more imaginative way," he said.

Funding expansion and greater equity in higher education would be easier to achieve if more students studied at institutions in their local area - or even at more than one institution, Mr Blunkett suggested. "It would be possible for students to spend part of their time at a local university and the rest at another where there are particular facilities they need for their course," he said.

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