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Clear the bureaucracy jungle now

The Leitch review is about much more than giving employers control over what colleges teach. It is a blueprint for wresting control of FE from the three big Government departments and handing it to a commission.

The creation of a Commission for Employment and Skills is a central proposal by Lord Sandy Leitch, former head of Zurich Financial Services.

The commission would be employer-run, driving the UK skills agenda. It would decide the terms of engagement for colleges and other providers, ensuring state spending on vocational education was in response to demand.

Under current legislation, such a body would be pushed and pulled three ways by the Department for Education and Skills, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Trade and Industry.

Instead, under the new Leitch vision, shared by the Chancellor Gordon Brown, the commission would report direct to the Prime Minister. Of course, Brown expects to hold the post if or when the reforms happen.

There is no doubt the Treasury-commissioned review would not have been published in the way it was unless Brown and Blair backed it. The big question for colleges is: will this lead to greater centralisation or finally free them from the three giant departments that have created more bureaucracy over 10 years than almost any other?

Will colleges see much difference? They are progressing well down the road to demand-led training and Leitch is confident they will do better. There will be tough targets and high levels of accountability. But these recommendations offer the chance to clear the bureaucracy jungle once and for all.

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