Post-16 players vie for position

November 5, 1999

White paper responses kick off huge reform task. Alan Thomson reports

The government will by now have realised the enormity of the task of reshaping post-16 education as it begins sifting through the responses to the consultation on its Learning to Succeed white paper.

The sheer diversity of opinion on the proposals in the white paper means that the government will have its work cut out over the next few months in trying to keep even the major players happy. The big three sectors are the colleges, business and local government, including schools.

Each player has its own concerns. Further education colleges, which will receive the bulk of the Pounds 5 billion annual budget of the new Learning and Skills Council (LSC), are the most obviously important sector. They are the front line in the delivery of post-16 education.

But the government has already said that it expects business to comprise the single biggest grouping on the 47 local learning and skills councils.

Most employers will want to dictate what sort of education and training is required in their locality and could exert a dominant influence on the strategies that the LSCs will submit to the national council. Local government will form another major bloc on the local skills councils. Its links to the schools and the further education sectors, local business and regional development agencies place it in a pivotal position. Little happens without its cooperation.

So far the government has kept to the schedule set out at the launch of the white paper. It has already confirmed the national council headquarters and will announce the location of the 47 local councils early next year.

In the meantime there could be legislation announced in the Queen's Speech later this month to abolish the Further Education Funding Council and set up the national council.

It may also be necessary to legislate to abolish the training and enterprise councils, which will cease to exist weeks before the completion of the transfer of services to the national council in April 2001.

The submission by the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education has called for local adult learning committees on the LSCs. Niace has also said members of local skills councils should have adult education knowledge and some definition of "adequacy" of adult learning provision. It says that if a definition is impossible, the secretary of state should issue a letter annually setting out priorities for community-based adult learning.

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