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Government calls for debate on improving post-16 learning


Lifelong Learning and Higher Education Minister Margaret Hodge announced today that major changes are needed to raise standards, eliminate uneven quality and reward excellencein further education and training.

The minister went on to identify the elements required:
- a targeted intervention strategy to help those who need to improve and to cut out persistently poor provision;
- better teacher training and guidance for colleges starting in weak curriculum areas;
- encouraging colleges and other providers to play to their strengths;
- beacon status to recognise excellence in all post-16 providers that get top class inspection results.

Mrs Hodge said: "The last year has seen a radical transformation in the post-16 sector. The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is now a reality. A new inspection regime which puts the learner at the centre is up and running. This Government is spending £620 million on raising standards in FE. And we will open a new national leadership college next year. However, while there is much excellent provision for students, quality remains patchy. Early inspection results show that four out of ten colleges need to be re-inspected in some curriculum areas. One in five students drop out and you only have a 50:50 chance in post-16 learning of successfully achieving what you set out to do."

"Today I want to start a debate on how we can improve quality and raise success rates. We want to work with all our partners to transform the sector and enhance the life changes to individuals. The LSC is putting in place a new targeted intervention strategy to cut out poor provision... The Education Bill will, if enacted, give the LSC powers to plan and organise 16-19 provision. We want to debate whether general further education colleges should continue to offer everything from vocational education for 14-year-olds to higher education, from basic skills for adults to 'A' levels in one institution, or whether colleges should specialise."

LSC Quality and Standards Director Avril Willis said: "We must work in partnership towards a world class learning experience for all the students whose learning we fund. We already have some excellent provision but the evidence from inspections is that there is too much variation... Our procedures for monitoring performance aim to identify both successes and potential weaknesses at an early stage. We will celebrate success and will help providers that have weaknesses to deal with them before they become real problems. But we must not forget that we have an over-riding responsibility to the learner and, if there are persistent weaknesses or we have serious concerns, we will not hesitate to take action."

Estelle Morris is due to launch a consultation in June on how best to drive up standards in post-16 learning.

What do TrainingZONE members see as the main issues in raising standards in post-16 education and training? Post your comments below.


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