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Funding to assist lifelong learning

FURTHER flesh was put on the bones of lifelong learning last week, as the Scottish Executive announced a pound;660,000 package to develop local learning partnerships covering every corner of Scotland, writes Neil Munro.

But it will have to be matched by funds from other public agencies and from private sources.

Alasdair Morrison, the deputy minister for enterprise and lifelong learning, said the money would be paid out over three years to allow each local partnership to appoint a co-ordinator. The contribution from the Government amounts to pound;10,000 a year for each of the 22 local enterprise company areas.

Mr Morrison told a meeting in Edinburgh that local learning partnerships were now "an important part of the learning landscape and add value to it".

There are at present 18 such partnerships, whose members include chambers of commerce, educational interests and local authorities. They cover 90 per cent of the population and the Government's aim is to add the remaining 10 per cent.

A Scottish Office review of the partnerships, also published last Friday, states that they have been a success, and all the 14 recommendations have been accepted by ministers. Inevitably, these include greater efforts to set targets and measure their perormance.

The extent of future support and direction from the Government will be reviewed annually. Officials are confident that matching funding will be forthcoming, since the initial challenge fund of more than pound;800,000 used to get the partnerships going over the past three years generated pound;1.8 million from other sources.

The executive has also issued more details on how individual learning accounts will work. Ministers have committed pound;23m over the next two years to kickstart the initiative.

The first 100,000 account holders during that period will receive pound;150 from employers and the state to spend on learning if they contribute pound;25.

In addition, Henry McLeish, the enterprise and lifelong learning minister, has announced an 80 per cent discount for anyone undertaking a computer literacy or IT course at an FE college. He said that was "being serious about the knowledge economy".

He is also introducing a Learning Accounts (Scotland) Bill to allow ministers to pay grants and set criteria for what will count as eligible learning account holders and eligible learning.

Other necessary measures, such as tax relief for employers making contributions to learning accounts, will be laid before the Westminster parliament.

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