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14-19 REFORM MUST VALUE ALL FORMS OF LEARNING

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Learning needs to become a desirable part of our national lifestyle and ...
Learning needs to become a desirable part of our national lifestyle and

culture, and not just classed as a collection of qualifications, according

to local government leaders.

The Local Government Association is leading the debate on transforming

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

work.

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.

Notes

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.

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