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Learning rich;Leading Article;Opinion;News amp; Opinion

TODAY'S economists are unanimous in saying the world of the next millennium will be divided into two classes - the "information rich" and the "information poor".

In Britain, this is already a reality - as our news stories on page 2 and on the front page of this week's FE Focus make clear. In a bleak and simple statement this week, MPs on the Education and Employment Select Committee reported that the effect of improved participation in learning post-16 over two decades "has been to widen the gap between the educational 'haves' and 'have-nots'."

The Government has pledged equal access to education, in a world where knowledge has become wealth. But in learning, as in health and high finance, those who already "have" are most canny when it comes to getting more.

This means that money to improve access for the have-nots must be more accurately targeted. Chancellor Gordon Brown's announcement of 10,000 extra college-based childcare places and new basic computer training for 50,000 adults is therefore most welcome.

But much more is needed. The post-16 legislation to be announced in the Queen's Speech next week must be backed by enough cash if wider access is to be sustained.

When Education Secretary David Blunkett addresses the annual conference of the Association of Colleges in two weeks' time, principals will expect serious money and policy assurances to help them combat educational exclusion.

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