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NEXT STAGE OF REFORM IN THE LEARNING AND SKILLS SECTOR LAUNCHED

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Proposals to develop a more modernised and demand-led network of ...
Proposals to develop a more modernised and demand-led network of

learning and skills' providers offering choice and value to learners

and employers were unveiled today by education and skills secretary Charles Clarke.

Speaking at the annual Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA)

conference in London, Mr Clarke outlined his vision for a new

relationship with the sector. With success rates improving and

positive signs that the Success for All reforms are being embraced by

the learning and skills sector, he set out his proposals for

empowering the front-line by reducing bureaucracy and creating a high

quality, responsive, demand-led sector responsible for its own

future.

Mr Clarke said:

'The sectors success speaks for itself. College success rates for all

qualifications have increased from 59 per cent in 2000/01 to 65 per

cent in 2001/02. There are a record number of apprentices, and

completion rates have increased on average by nearly five percentage

points over the last year.

'But, we need more. Only by maximising the skills of the whole

workforce can we deliver a successful economy and social justice. I

want every young person prepared for the world of work. I want them

to have some vocational experience between the ages of 14 and 16 and

to have access to a high quality apprenticeship. I want every adult

to have the skills they need for employability. And I want every

employer to be able to expect all job applicants to have good levels

of literacy and numeracy, and skills. We can only achieve this

through stronger and more autonomous colleges and training providers.

'The new vision is based upon trust and devolution of responsibility

to the front line. Sir Andrew Foster's bureaucracy review group has

today published its first annual report. I welcome this report which

recommends the introduction of a more strategic approach to

regulation and inspection which is very much in line with our vision

for the sector. We are working with the Inspectorates to put this

into effect with a new inspection model starting in 2005 which will

be based much more on validation of self assessment and will be

'light touch' for those who have demonstrated their competence and

success.

'Many college principals have told us that too many organisations are

involved in quality improvements. I want to streamline this landscape

to ensure a clearer focus and direction. I intend to establish one

national strategic body to drive forward quality improvements and

bring together quality-assurance activity which is currently

dispersed across several bodies. I have invited the LSDA to work with

the Department to consider how best to undertake this role.'

Publishing his report, Sir Andrew said:

'The way forward is not to adopt the narrower approach of shortening

forms and streamlining administrative processes, but to modernise

management to the highest standards. I welcome the new lighter touch

inspection arrangements that will place responsibility for quality

with colleges and learning providers and help build up trust within

the learning and skills sector.'

Mr Clarke also reminded delegates that he was looking for a

change in culture and attitudes to achieve the aims of the Skills

Strategy. He added:

'Last year's Skills Strategy set out a vision for transforming our

national investment in skills. Central to this is achieving a new

balance of responsibilities and funding between government, employers

and learners which will require a historic shift in expectations and

practice about who pays for what.

'The government has responsibility to secure and pay for high quality

initial education and training for young people. That will remain

true. The Government will continue to make a major investment in

adult learning. But it cannot and should not fund all the skills

investment needed to sustain a competitive economy.'

'The contribution that employers and learners make towards the cost

of training in the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) funded sector is

not as high as might be reasonably expected when we look at other

countries. As announced in last year's Skills Strategy we will ask

the LSC to take forward a consultation process this summer on how to

maximise funding in the sector.'

Concluding his speech, Mr Clarke said that he wanted a dialogue

with the sector about the new relationship. He announced he would be

starting this debate by meeting a group of college principals before

the summer break to discuss key issues facing the sector. The

secretary of state also announced the appointment of Chris Banks as

the new chair of the LSC.

Mr Clarke concluded:

'This is a far reaching vision for delivering a successful economy

and social justice and I want the sector to take ownership of that

vision. That is why I will be entering into a dialogue with the

sector over the next few months. By the end of June the LSC will

provide me with an interim report setting out the issues raised as a

result of their roadshows and by the end of July I intend to meet

personally with 25-30 college and learning provider principals.

'I am today announcing the appointment of Chris Banks as the new

chairman for the LSC. This comes at a critical time for the learning

and skills sector as the LSC will be pivotal in implementing the

reforms announced today. Chris is a leading business figure and

champion of learning who has already worked closely with the DfES,

DTI and Jobcentre plus.'

Chris Banks, new chair of the LSC, said:

'I am delighted to be appointed to chair the Learning and Skills

Council. This is an important time for us. We are ready for the

challenges that face us and determined to make real progress.'

'We have a clear direction; we will make sure that young people and

adults in this country have the knowledge and skills to match the

best in the world and we will help employers to get the training and

skills they need for their businesses.

'The LSC has strong partnerships, a vital network of local councils

and strong management at a national, regional and local level. I am

looking forward to working closely with the chief executive Mark

Haysom and confident the LSC will have the skills and experience to

plan and invest in high quality education and training that will

build a skilled and competitive workforce.'

NOTES

1. Mr Clarke was speaking at the Learning and Skills Development

Agency's annual summer conference.

2. The inspection proposals place self-assessment at the heart of the

process. Inspectorates' contact with colleges and providers will be

more frequent; but the bureaucratic burden on them is reduced through

better co-ordination and making inspection proportionate to risk.

There will be a formal consultation on the Common Inspection

Framework in October 2004 and the new framework will be published in

early 2005. This new model will be introduced in 2005 and the chief

inspectors will be writing to colleges and other providers shortly

with further details.

3. Sir Andrew's Bureaucracy report can be found at

http://www.successforall.gov.uk/contentList.cfm?contSectionId=8

The report recommends:

*Strategic approach to regulation and inspection to be adopted within

12 months. There should be 25% less scrutiny and staff involved.

*Simplified Management Information System within 12 months and 40%

less data to be collected.

*Qualifications and Curriculum Authority modernisation programme to

include learning and skills sector qualifications.

*QCA to rationalise administration of awarding bodies, reduce burden

imposed by them by 30%.

*Framework contract between the DfES and the LSC should be

renegotiated - strategic leadership from the DfES and LSC to manage

implementation

4. Quality improvement body - the DfES and LSDA will undertake a

feasibility study between July and December 2004. The aim of the

study will be to develop design principles for the new quality

improvement body and assess the restructuring required if LSDA were

to take on the role. It will include consultation with key partners

to ensure that there is clarity about roles, relationships and

accountability for quality improvement. It is intended that there

will be a further statement to the sector on our proposals in the

Autumn and that the new body would be fully operational by April

2006.

5. Chris Banks was born in 1959.

Educated at Bristol Cathedral School and graduated from Birmingham

University. He is currently chief executive of food and drinks firm

Bigthoughts. He is a member of the National Learning and Skills

Council and chair of the Young People's Learning Committee; chair of

the London Employers' Coalition for New Deal; and a member of the

Supervisory Board of Community Action Network. The appointment is

part-time, around two days a week. The salary for this post will be

£50,000 per annum. Mr Banks has declared no political activity during

the past five years.

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