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£8BN BOOST FOR SKILLS

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Education and skills secretary Charles Clarke today announced record...
Education and skills secretary Charles Clarke today announced record

levels of new investment to support post-16 learning and skills in

England.

Speaking at the Learning and Skills Council's annual event for its 47

local chairs and chief executives, he confirmed that as from April

next year the LSC would receive a major increase in its budget giving

it in excess of£8.0bn in 2003-04, rising to£9.2bn in 2005-06. But

he was clear that this record investment had to bring about radical

and sustained improvements, and significantly drive up the country's

overall skill levels.

Charles Clarke said:

'Our education and training system is fundamental to both economic

success and social inclusion, and in today's competitive and fast

moving world economy, we simply cannot afford to continue with a

system that does not provide people with the skills or qualifications

they need to carry out their jobs and their lives effectively.

'This money is allocated on a something for something basis. A

vibrant economy needs thriving businesses, and they in turn need a

skilled and flexible workforce, supported by a high quality and

responsive further education and training system. I am confident that

the LSC can build on the significant progress it has already made,

and use the additional resources to deliver the education and

training that learners and employers need, and to standards that are

second to none.

'I have already seen what the LSC is capable of through its highly

successfully bite-sized learning campaign, and through the effective

implementation of the Centres of Vocational Excellence programme. I

have also been impressed by the support and enthusiasm with which it

has taken forward the new Employer Training Pilots.'

The new funding flexibilities, which the secretary of state also

unveiled today, are designed to help the LSC and its providers plan

ahead with much more certainty over the next 3 years, and to

transform the range of learning provision on offer. Decisions on

funding will be linked to new 3-year delivery plans developed by

colleges and training providers. The LSC will also, for the first

time, be able to carry over unspent funds from one year to the next.

The secretary of state said:

'As well as giving the LSC unprecedented levels of investment, we are

also giving it the tools to deliver. As from April next year, the

LSC will have maximum discretion about how to use its mainstream

funds to deliver our stretching new participation and attainment

targets. But we recognise that one size does not fit all. To achieve

our vision of a learning society, we must see far greater devolution

to the front line. That means giving local people responsibility for

deciding what provision is needed in each locality. With that comes a

much greater focus on delivery, and I expect the LSC to be totally

focused on driving up performance and standards.

'The LSC will now be able to plan ahead with confidence, and where

necessary to carry over funds from one year to the next. But that

does not mean a carte blanche to under-spend. I expect the LSC to act

corporately, and for local LSCs to work with each other, and with the

national office, to ensure that funds are used where they will have

most impact. These new flexibilities will help the LSC to make even

more rapid progress in ensuring that many more people take part in

learning, and achieve success.'

But he also recognised that the LSC could not deliver this massive

agenda for reform on its own. Welcoming the LSCs response to the

bureaucracy busting recommendations published by the Sweeney Group,

he added:

'I want the LSC and its local councils to support and work with

colleges, schools and private training providers, to improve

performance and to deliver success for all. This can only be done in

partnership, and will require a relationship based on trust and open

communication. I expect the council to be able to negotiate

effectively with all providers; to spot and challenge

under-performance; and to intervene and provide support where needed.

I also look to you to continue to engage strategically with employers

and other key partners, both nationally and locally.

'The council has the opportunity to transform the performance of the

learning and skills sector. It is now important to demonstrate

results; to be seen to be delivering; and to be seen as an exemplar

organization, that adds value to its key partners.'

LSC chairman Bryan Sanderson said:

'The increase in funding and new financial flexibilities are

extremely welcome, and will help us to achieve our targets over the

next three years. The council has a challenging task in turning round

a generation of neglect and under-funding in post-16 learning. Our

job is to ensure business gets the skilled workforce it needs to

compete in the global economy; and to change the culture of learning

so that every citizen has the opportunity and the ambition to acquire

world-class skills needed for successful careers and sustained

employment.

'Over the coming months we will be working closely with the

covernment and other key stakeholders to develop a national skills

strategy which will drive a demand-led service and really tackle the

skill shortages faced by business. And we will continue to work

vigorously with our partners to bring about a rapid and conspicuous

change for learners, communities and the country.

'We relish the challenge and we intend to accomplish it effectively

and rapidly.'

NOTES

This Press Notices applies to England

1. Established in April 2001, the LSC's mission is to raise

participation and attainment through high-quality education and

training, which puts learners first. The LSC's vision is that, by

2010, young people and adults in England will have knowledge and

productive skills matching the best in the world.

2. The LSC has a national office in Coventry and 47 local offices.

Its last Grant Letter was issued on 10 December 2001, and its budget

for 2002-03 was£7.3bn.

3. In order to help deliver 'success for all' (PN 2002/0216) the

Department has further increased the flexibility available to the LSC

in the use of its budgets. This includes reducing the number of

budget lines from nine in 02-03 to five in 03-04 (compared to over 40

in 01-02).

4. The full text of the 2003-04 Grant Letter from the secretary of

state can be found here.

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