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Independent body to tackle red tape in post-16 learning

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The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) have set up an independent body which will be tasked with getting rid of red tape in post-compulsory education.

The new seven-member Group, composed of representatives from the civil service and learning sectors, has been set up in direct response to the Sweeney report on bureaucracy in the Further Education college sector, and will meet quarterly. Sir Andrew Foster, Controller of the Audit Commission, has been appointed as Chair, and will report directly to Education Secretary Charles Clarke and to Bryan Sanderson, Chairman of the Learning and Skills Council.

The Group's will look at policies and procedures affecting all providers in the learning and skills sector, and will, according to the DfES, have the following aims:

  • develop flexible and innovative approaches;
  • have the power to review and challenge the impact of new policies imposed across the whole post-16 sector;
  • publicly challenge existing policies where they add unnecessarily to bureaucracy and scrutinise proposed plans before they are implemented;
  • advise on how to maximise efficiency and effectiveness within the sector;
  • publish an annual report on progress made and issues arising.
  • Speaking at the Learning and Skills Development Agency Summer Conference, Margaret Hodge welcomed Sir Andrew’s appointment and said:

    "I am pleased to announce that together with the LSC we have created a gatekeeper group that will be a permanent champion of light touch control. Its powers will give it real teeth to root out unnecessary bureaucracy...an important group that will tackle the unnecessary bureaucracy that has plagued the sector for so long."

    The Times Educational Supplement reported recently that an earlier attempt to remove layers of confusion and paperwork from the qualifications system seems to have gone badly wrong. When it was launched in 1987, the National Council for Vocational Qualifications was intended to shake up work-related training and the 16,000 qualifications on offer, but the paper reports that there are now more than 85,000 qualifications on the Learning and Skills Council database. It also notes comments made in a speech given by by Leisha Fullick, pro-director of the Institute of Education in London, who argues that there is a lack of cohesion among the organisations responsible for post-16 learning in the capital.

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