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Minister to slash red tape in ‘skills shake-up’


Details of a radical shake-up in skills delivery were announced this week by Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett.

Speaking to a business audience at 10 Downing Street on 14 December, Mr Blunkett said that the proposals would slash bureaucracy, put £50 million savings into front-line learning, and tackle decades of poor performance in the skills delivery system.

Mr. Blunkett also announced that Nick Reilly, Chairman and Managing Director of Vauxhall Motors would lead a group of business leaders who would advise him how to take the skills message out to businesses throughout the country.

Publishing details of the Learning and Skills Council in a Prospectus, Mr Blunkett said:
"The skills system we inherited was bureaucratic and complex, and failed to deliver consistently high performance. As a result, we have lacked the skills we need for business competitiveness and social prosperity in the new economy.

"That will now change. We are shaking up the system, bringing together the funding of training providers and further education colleges in the new Learning and Skills Council, and ploughing £50 million savings back into front-line learning provision. Working with partners we aim to be at the top of the European skills league. Skills, knowledge and innovation are the foundation for success in the new economy."

"The new Learning and Skills Council will have a budget of around £6 billion and be responsible for almost 6 million learners. It will establish a strong national framework for funding the skills drive, with substantial local flexibility, amounting to some 10-15% of the total budget, for its 47 local arms. Business, which stands to benefit greatly from learning, will be in the driving seat of the new arrangements.

"Business and Government must work together to raise skills levels. The UK performs badly in comparison with the rest of Europe on the proportion of the workforce skilled at critical intermediate levels. Our vocational skills system has been historically poor and we are determined to put that right in the next century."

Mr. Blunkett also announced new arrangements for providing excellence with diversity in the provision of 16-19 education:

"After a full consultation, we have decided that Education Authorities should in future receive their sixth form funds via the Learning and Skills Council, with schools continuing to receive the funds from their Local Education Authority. We will be consulting partners shortly on the implementation of this change which we do not expect to introduce before 2002-03. There will be safeguards so that a school’s sixth form budget will not reduce in real terms provided numbers are maintained. Schools with sixth forms will play a vital role in the drive to increase success for all our young people.

The Government also intends in forthcoming legislation to allow new 16-19 institutions to be established, whether maintained by Education Authorities or the Learning and Skills Council. We intend through these arrangements to put in the hands of local communities options for raising standards and providing the choices and curriculum breadth young people need and want as we enter the next century."


* Recent figures show that the UK has a lower proportion of employees qualified to technician level (level 3) than Germany, France and the Netherlands in construction, engineering, food processing, hotels and catering, and business services. GDP per worker in the UK lags behind the USA by 40% and by 20% compared to France and Germany. Those with a qualification at NVQ level 3 have average earnings a third higher than those with no qualifications, and those with HNC/D have average earnings 50% - 70% higher than those with no qualifications.

2. A public consultation was held following the launch of the White Paper, Learning to Succeed, on 30 June 1999. Examples of some of the comments made by businesses in response to the consultation are:

"We agree strongly with the need to change. We applaud the shift in emphasis from provider to consumer-led provision." BP Oil

"The Council will bring much needed clarity in the area of post-16 training and education and I am pleased with the increased opportunity these arrangements contain for businesses to help shape the national skills agenda." (Nationwide Building Society)

"Overall, we very much welcome the proposals for an integrated approach to inspection and quality improvement (The Rover Group)

3. The Government intends in forthcoming legislation to enable Education Authorities and other promoters to propose the creation of Education Authority-maintained 16-19 institutions. In addition, the LSC will be able to propose the establishment of new LSC-maintained sixth form colleges, and FE colleges will continue to be able to set up their own bespoke sixth form provision where there is a demand for this locally.

4. Copies of the Prospectus are available from the Post 16 Unit, W3A, Moorfoot, Sheffield, S1 4PQ and on the DfEE internet site.


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