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Former principal brings wealth of experience to learning agency

Former principal Les Walton will chair the new Young People's Learning Agency, bringing a wealth of further education experience to the job.

Mr Walton, who was principal of Tyne Metropolitan College until 2006, was this week confirmed by the Government as chair of the YPLA. Peter Lauener, who works in the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), will be the agency's first chief executive.

Announcing the decision, Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, said both appointments were dependent on the successful passage of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill through Parliament.

The Bill effectively abolishes the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and hands its responsibility to commission and fund all 16-19 education - including that delivered by FE providers - to local authorities.

The YPLA, a non-departmental body, will support councils in planning and commissioning 16-19 provision. It is expected that there will be a small number of agency staff based in each English region, providing information, advice, analysis and specialist expertise.

The agency will have budgetary oversight of the Pounds 7 billion transferred from the LSC to local authorities; develop and operate the national funding formula; and make sure that local commissioning fits with national education and skills strategies.

Mr Walton, who was previously head of Norham Community Technology College in North Shields and was a local authority education officer, created Tyne Metropolitan College from the merger of North Tyneside College, which he ran, with Tynemouth College. He currently runs his own consultancy, Northern Education.

Alan Dixon, north-east regional director for the Association of Colleges, said: "It is good to see someone appointed with a range of experience across further education, secondary schools and local authorities.

"In my experience, Les has always sought to gather round him people with expertise, and always makes sure he has the groundwork done as he takes projects forward."

The appointment of Mr Lauener, who is director of local transformation at the DCSF, was welcomed by Julian Gravatt, the AoC's associate chief executive.

"Peter is a very experienced leader, with a good understanding of colleges and a strong interest in the education and development of young people. We wish him all the best in this new role," Mr Gravatt said.

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