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Labour's inept policies on training

It is quite remarkable that Gordon Brown, widely believed just a few years ago to be a particularly bright star in the Labour firmament, should come up with such a staggeringly inept "plan" as he calls it.

There is absolutely no sociological reason to believe that the saved Pounds 700 million is in fact necessary in order to provide "equality of opportunity - a guarantee of full or part-time education for 15 to 18-year-olds in particular the children of unskilled parents".

For more than 20 years the opportunities have already been there for all to take. A vast range of vocational education and training, both full and part-time, has been proliferating at further education colleges since the sixties.

Now the FE colleges are marketing themselves like crazy, desperate to fill their classrooms so that they will earn Scotish Office Education and Industry Department funding. Skillstarts and Skillseekers Scotvec modules, group awards like National Certificates, SVQs and GSVQs, City and Guilds and RSAs - full time or part time - are all available for everyone, mostly without demanding entry requirements.

Has Gordon Brown any ideas as to how to change the minds of the 80 per cent of 16-year-olds who do not presently take up their opportunity? For some years, I was convener of the education committee of the Scottish Further and Higher Education Committee. We made many approaches in 1993 and 1994 to get backing for broadcast sound and video bites to increase public awareness of the critical role that parents play in stimulating motivation.

We got nowhere. Yet other video bites have been bombarding our televisions very creditably educating us about passive smoking, reducing speed, checking smoke alarms. But year after year school league tables show us that, with the very occasional exception, things are just the way they were 50 years ago.

Teachers' organisations have been telling the politicians the same things over year after year and now the Institute of Fiscal Studies tells us again.

This benefit is "a wee godsend" to hundreds of thousands. We should be encouraging young people who stay at school.

C C STIRLING-WHYTE 45 Hainburn Park Edinburgh

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