Smart cards smooth path to college

October 1, 1999

Alan Thomson reports from the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth this week

Further education students are to be offered smart cards to store personal information, monitor college attendance and provide access to maintenance allowances.

Tony Blair announced the introduction of the electronic card in his speech to the Labour Party conference on Tuesday.

The card, which would also give holders access to a wide range of discounts, could be made available to 16 to 18-year-old students from next autumn.

According to the Department for Education and Employment, the card could contain curriculum vitae information. This may, for example, mean that it credits students for study that did not necessarily lead to a qualification.

It may also be used in connection with education maintenance allowances, for instance as a validation for the payment of EMAs. Discounts will be available on internet use, travel, books and equipment, and leisure facilities.

Education secretary David Blunkett welcomed the card as part of the government's strategy to encourage all 16-year-olds to stay on in education and training.

"We need to raise the aspirations of young people in learning and reward achievement," Mr Blunkett said.

A youth card was recommended in a report by the government's Social Exclusion Unit earlier this year.

The government will work with commercial partners to develop the technology.

A spokesman for the National Union of Students said: "We welcome the development of the card as a way of making students feel part of a learning community."

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