Scotland is way ahead in lifelong learning, says minister

April 26, 2002

Scotland is outperforming the rest of the United Kingdom in lifelong learning in a range of key areas, according to enterprise and lifelong learning minister Wendy Alexander.

She told the Scottish Parliament's enterprise and lifelong learning committee that Scotland had delivered a new scheme of student support and was also starting to equalise student support in further and higher education.

She said targets for modern apprenticeships and an expansion of further education had been met a year ahead of schedule. The country now had the UK's first all-age careers guidance service and was putting skills at the heart of its economic development agenda rather than setting up separate learning and skills councils.

It had created Future Skills Scotland to forecast future demand and end the "blind date" between employers and those seeking work, said the minister.

Ms Alexander was stressing existing achievements after the committee's lifelong learning convention last week. This brought together a range of interested parties to debate the committee's radical interim report on a lifelong learning strategy. The comments will help shape the final report, expected in June.

David Caldwell, director of Universities Scotland, praised this approach to producing a parliamentary report. "This was a very constructive, useful event. It was obviously experimental, but an experiment that worked, and probably justifies being repeated on similar occasions," he said.

There was widespread scepticism over the committee's pledge that its proposals for a "learner-driven" system would be cash neutral and achieved by redistributing existing resources.

Mr Caldwell said there was particular concern in higher education over the proposal to have a single funding body covering post-compulsory education up to higher national diploma/second-year university level. "We just don't regard that as viable, that the funding of degrees is split between two separate arrangements."

Tony Axon, research officer of the Association of University Teachers Scotland, said the report had failed to address "how to recruit, retain and motivate staff".

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