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157 Group to draw up manifesto for sector

The UK's leading colleges are to publish a manifesto for further education in time for this autumn's party political conferences.

The 157 Group decided at its conference last weekend to set out its members' vision for creating a strong and vibrant FE sector over the next few years. The move follows a meeting between college leaders and Lord Mandelson, the Skills Secretary, last Thursday.

Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the group, said members felt the creation of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills set a "new tone for a new time".

"Lord Mandelson encouraged us to be creative, innovative and positive and to tell government what we wanted," Ms Sedgmore said. "The manifesto will contribute to this in a positive way.

"We had 26 of the brightest and best principals around a table for two days at our conference and we spent that time sharing ideas. We want to put that to good use for the benefit of the sector."

Ms Sedgmore said the central tenet of the manifesto would be teaching and learning. She said that student and employer experience would be part of everything the group articulated.

The manifesto is likely to be structured around six key themes: 14-19 education; higher education in the FE sector; efficiencies; performance management, including Framework for Excellence; financial flexibility and the move away from "funding silos"; and community cohesion.

First the 157 Group intends to produce policy statements on each theme. These will feed into the final manifesto, which will go out to consultation before its publication ahead of the party conferences.

Meanwhile, headline results for college performance will be published later this month under the Framework for Excellence initiative. Initial results will include success rates for the sector as a whole, allowing institutions to benchmark their performance. Individual college "report cards" are planned for 2010.

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