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Fair measures of success

With all the hullabaloo about "excellence" and "choice" in the Government's new five-year education strategy, it is easy to miss what may be a crucial development for post-16 learning.

At the same time as the launch of the strategy, the results of last winter's consultation on measuring success post-16 were published with a plan to introduce measures for fairly comparing achievement in sixth forms, FE colleges and work-based learning.

The aim is to introduce new measures of learner success rates, "value-added" measures comparing a student's school performance at 16 with their subsequent level 3 performance post-16; and "distance travelled" for all learners 16 to 19, eventually extending to adults as well. There will also be indicators of value for money.

Measures used so far have not been fair to the learner or the provider. The aim is to bring in measures that are transparent, objective and applied consistently.

These proposals are most welcome. But the task is enormous and the time allowed short. The aim is to have the key measures of "value-added" and "distance travelled" in place by summer 2005, to be piloted in 20056 and fully launched in 20067.

We don't yet have the data to do the job properly. When it is in place, it will still be necessary to run the system for a while to remove anomalies, lack of clarity and misleading conclusions.

The difference in approach between courses or providers are so great that it is hard to see how fair comparisons can be made.

Unless the results are seen to be fair, the backlash could destroy something which could for the first time give the post-school non-higher education sector the status it deserves.

Ken Ilett 9, Gaydon Road Aldridge, Walsall

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