Wales targets post-16 sector

April 2, 1999

A radical shake-up of post-16 education, welcomed by ministers this week, is to be one of the first proposals the Welsh Assembly considers. The plan could pave the way for reform in England, writes Phil Baty.

Peter Hain, education minister for Wales, launched plans this week for establishing a National Council for Education and Training to set post-16 funding and cut "unacceptable inefficiency, duplication and waste".

The report, An Education and Training Action Plan for Wales, "could lead the way across Britain in creating a well-integrated, coherent and progressive post-16 education and training system," Mr Hain said. It comes as ministers are undertaking a wholesale review of lifelong learning in England.

A National Council, dominated by business interests, would take "lead responsibility", with the Welsh Further and Higher Education Funding Councils, for financing all publicly funded education and training post-16.

All provision would be guided by labour market data from the Future Skills Wales Project.

The report also demands progress towards an all-encompassing national credit-based qualifications framework - embracing further and higher education - under a common quality assurance system.

A Community Consortia for Education and Training would secure "genuine parity of esteem and treatment for academic, vocational and workplace training".

Mr Hain said that there had emerged a "bear-pit of competitive providers" and that the "status quo is unacceptable. That is an agenda for Wales to chug along complacently - falling behind the rest of the world."

"School sixth-forms were set up in competition with FE colleges - and both in competition with training and adult education providers. This has compartmentalised the system to a debilitating degree," he added.

Mr Hain said that "there should be no protecting old systems for their own sake" and no more "institutional rigidities". The report was commissioned by ministers to advise the assembly.

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