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Delays in opening of skills academy

The creation of national skills academies has been delayed as the Government's flagship scheme is hit by teething troubles.

Four academies were scheduled to open last month as part of the pound;120 million programme, but the timetable was shifted earlier this year to this autumn.

Now, the Learning and Skills Council has told FE Focus that one of the academies is likely to be further delayed until 2007 or 2008. While the others will open, technically, immediately after a ministerial announcement on October 31, they may not be able to accept students until as late as next March.

The LSC insisted it was important that the plans were comprehensive and that the academies would be effective in meeting the needs of employers and students.

Jaine Clarke, director of skills for employers, said: "We have been working with the academies and as we have gone through testing their proposals, each has needed further work. It's a matter of whether that will be completed by the announcement. We don't see this as a delay. We need to be convinced that it's sustainable and meeting the needs of employers and learners in that sector.

"This is a new programme. It's challenging the way we think and behave and it's important to get it right. We don't expect it to be a big bang approach on the first of November, but we would expect them all to have learners in by the end of March."

The academies, each overseen by a sector skills council, will be dedicated to construction, manufacturing, financial services and food manufacturing.

Each is tailor-made to the industry's needs, with no common approach to location or curriculum design.

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