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Industry links targets diluted

THE GOVERNMENT has been accused of watering-down radical proposals aimed at setting tougher targets for industry to help schools through partnerships, work experience and curriculum support.

A far-reaching consultation report was being drawn up jointly by the Government departments for industry and for employment and education earlier this year. Two ministers - Margaret Beckett, then President of the Board of Trade, and Steven Byers, the then schools minister - were most closely identified with the issue. They had promised a hard-hitting package of reforms.

But, since they were both moved into other posts in the summer reshuffle, the consultation paper has been considerably diluted.

Government sources told The TES that the now eight-page paper had gone through several months of redrafting to arrive at a narrowly-defined set of proposals around school-business partnerships.

Consultation on the document, "Sustaining Partnerships", concludes next Monday . Indications are that critics are likely to home in on the paper's narrowness of vision, rather than any serious deficiencies in what it does cover.

The inquiry into school-business partnerships was set up at the same time as the Government pledged an extra year's funding for the Teacher Placement Scheme, which would have lapsed at the end of the 1997-8. The scheme, which had provided 40,000 secondments for teachers into industry, had been threatened with closure.

The reprieve and inquiry followed pressures from business groups led by the Engineering Employers Federation.

Ian Nash and Huw Richards Friday magazine, p20

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