Learning power test

March 28, 1997

A LEARNING accounts pilot running in Gloucestershire is a likely model for the rest of the country should Labour come to power, says Stephen Byers, shadow employment and training minister.

The local training and enterprise council contributes up to Pounds 150 towards the cost of training courses once prospective trainees have saved enough to make their own contributions. Mr Byers told a Chartered Institute of Bankers conference that students might be expected to contribute between Pounds 25 and Pounds 50.

The Gloucestershire prospective trainees pay into a Midland Bank savings account, and have to prove that their proposed course is independent of work requirements.

Mr Byers said he had initially questioned how much training was possible with the combined student and state contribution envisaged of about Pounds 175 but the important point was stimulating the learning process.

"It will target funding in the areas where people may need help or encouragement. We are particularly interested in providing financial support to those people working in industries subject to rapid change," he said.

David Robertson, professor of education at Liverpool John Moores University and a consultant to the Dearing inquiry, said learning accounts for workplace training would be harder to set up than accounts for higher education. He said: "We still have to prove to people that they need training while they already know that higher education is useful to them and they already invest in it."

A report on learning accounts commissioned by Sir Ron Dearing was submitted to his committee of inquiry earlier this week.

* Labour has matched Government plans for a teacher training national curriculum with its own "core curriculum". The terminology is different, but the model unveiled this week by shadow education and employment secretary David Blunkett as the key to a new Teacher 2000 programme looked similar to Government proposals.

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