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Cash flows for the pathways

More than pound;9 million will be made available this year by the Assembly government to continue funding collaborations between schools and colleges.

ELWA, the post-16 education funding agency, provided pound;6 million last year to set up up the common investment fund (CIF). So far, it has paid for 103 projects for 14 to 19-year-olds across Wales, led by further education colleges and local education authorities.

The fund aims to support the Assembly's learning pathways proposals for the age group, which envisages offering young people more vocational and work-based courses and qualifications.

The money has spawned bilingual programmes, pilot community learning projects, collaborative e-learning, curriculum delivery, and "mini-pathfinder" projects exploring ways of reconfiguring local provision.

An independent evaluation is now under way. Some of the new pound;9.4m will go on fresh initiatives and the rest to sustaining existing projects. A prospectus will soon be issued to learning providers.

John Graystone, chief executive of fforwm, which represents Welsh FE colleges, said: "We'll wait to see how the cash will be allocated. A problem last year was long tortuous legal procedures - a lot of programmes were delayed.

"We'd rather have more money put into institutions. There remain problems about relationships between schools and colleges - structural issues, competition, planning. It's still about bums on seats: schools trying to stop students knowing about courses and colleges marketing themselves."

Brian Lightman head of St Cyres secondary school, Penarth, and treasurer of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "We think learning pathways for 14 to 19-year-olds is the right way to go and, in the Vale of Glamorgan, we've tried to find solutions. But the CIF is enormously bureaucratic. We need something more sustainable."

Nick Bennett, principal of Gorseinon college, Swansea, said: "Funding is still based on numbers coming to the institution."

But CIF is producing successful collaborations between schools and colleges in Swansea. "We have done amazingly well," said Mr Bennett. "We've gone from having barely any contact with schools to two good projects - one looking at areas of excellence, the other a pilot e-learning project."

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