culture, and not just classed as a collection of qualifications, according
to local government leaders.
learning and looking at the role local government can play. It is keen to
ensure that where skills and learning are concerned, young people get the
quality education they deserve, employers get the workforce they want and
local authorities use their potential as a major employer to promote all
forms of learning.
In responding to two areas of consultation, the LGA has criticised the
Department for Education and Skills' and the Department of Trade and
Industry's Skills Strategy White Paper for failing to recognise the role of
local authorities in 'building learning communities' and equating skills
with the possession of qualifications.
But it has welcomed the 14-19 Reform Working Group's report, led by Mike
Tomlinson, which is calling for broader recognition of the wider experiences
and interests of young people in areas such as sport, art and voluntary
Graham Lane, chair of the LGA's Education and Lifelong Learning
Executive, said: 'The Skills Strategy White Paper significantly understates
the role of local authorities. As the main provider of education from early
years to secondary school, important partners with schools and colleges
providing post-16 education, and major employers, no other organisation is
better placed, nor has the commitment, to become the linchpin necessary to
ensure that local skills needs will be met.
'Local government welcomes any attempt to broaden the availability of
learning opportunities, and for this reason we strongly support the emphasis
the 14-19 Reform Working Group has on valuing all forms of learning. A move
away from the current divide between academic and vocational studies is
what's needed to even-out the imbalan ces in the existing system.
'The multitude of qualifications that are currently available do not offer
young people the flexibility to blend academic and vocational learning.
Indeed, there is such a wealth of supposedly equivalent qualifications that
it is becoming increasingly difficult for employers to differentiate between
them. The LGA believes that by introducing a new framework, possibly one
where a standard diploma can be achieved at each level, this confusion will
be avoided and the stigma that exists favouring academic studies over
vocational skill will be eradicated.'
The LGA's response to the working group on 14-19 Reform, Led by Mike
Tomlinson, states that modern languages should play an important part in
education, and there should be flexibility in any new system for young
people to be able to change their minds.
'It is unrealistic to expect young people to make decisions about their
future at such a young age and stick to them for the rest of their lives,'
added Cllr Lane. 'So just as we need to recognise that people learn in
different ways and value the numerous skills that can be acquired, we must
give them the flexibility and support to change what they do in order to
fulfil their maximum potential.'
In both responses to consultation on skills and learning, local government
leaders are keen to remind the government that improvements come at a price.
They are asking central government to consider funding and resourcing issues
now to help all councils meet their own local needs and priorities.
The LGA is also warning of the impact that nationally set targets could have
on the education system. In the response to Mr Tomlinson, local leaders
argue that reforms could be severely hampered by such measures, replicating
the current obsession in the education system of teaching to exams.
1. The LGA is responding to the Skills Strategy White Paper: 21st Century
Skills, Realising Our P otential, produced by the Dept for Education &
Skills, Dept of Trade & Industry, Treasury and Dept of Work & Pensions and
the Principles for Reform of 14-19 Learning Programmes and Qualifications,
produced by the Working Group on 14-19 Reform, led by Mike Tomlinson
2. The White Paper is being consulted on until the end of October 2003. The
government's report can be found at www.dfes.gov.uk/skillsstrategy
3. The Working Group on 14-19 Reform is being consulted on until 16 October
2003. The full documents are available on www.14-19reform.gov.uk
4. The Local Government Association submitted its response on 14-19
reform to Mike Tomlinson yesterday when he attended a policy
review group meeting on the subject.