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Labour backs a Dearing 16-19 solution

The Labour party has backed most of the key elements expected in next week's Dearing Review of 16 to 19 education with the publication of its own, notably similar, policy document.

Under Labour's plans, produced after consultation with Sir Ron, 14-year-olds can attend college part-time, youth trainees are guaranteed an education in core skills, and vocational qualifications are stiffened up. It proposes a new framework of qualifications to span both academic and vocational courses with a National Qualifications Authority in charge.

These elements are near certain to appear in Sir Ron's review, the details of which have been heavily leaked. Labour party spokesmen were this week insistent that the conclusions of Aiming Higher: Labour's plans for reform of the 14 to 19 curriculum were independently reached.

Labour says that the current "piecemeal" system "constrains achievement, undermines aspirations and inhibits choices." Britain's current record, says the document is poor. Some 14 per cent of school leavers receive no education or training at all, and by the age of 18 this has risen to 62 per cent.

Each of the three separate "routes" to qualification are criticised. A-levels are "excessively narrow" for modern society. GNVQs - the school-based vocational option - are inflexible, narrow in scope, and bedevilled by bureaucracy. While the national vocational qualifications in the workplace are, as this year's Beaumont Report concluded, complex, jargon ridden, narrow, costly and lacking in rigour.

Labour has followed Sir Ron in preserving the three routes, while attempting to make them more comparable. This it hopes to do by: * Increasing the rigour of vocational courses. Advanced GNVQs would reach "greater congruence" with A-levels and could eventually be termed "Applied A-levels". Like Dearing, Labour backs the Beaumont report on the shaky NVQ system, in particular the demand that trainees are offered qualification.

* Broadening academic work with more modular courses.

* Introducing a common framework for qualifications. All successful students at level 3 (A-level equivalent) will receive an additional Advanced Diploma.

Labour has avoided mention of the likely cost.

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