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Letters - We need a flexible framework

I was pleased to see the attention given to the Framework for Excellence ("Poor score for grading system", FE Focus, January 9).

The framework is a landmark development that will bring long-term benefits for the post-16 sector, and I agree that expectations - and stakes - are high.

However, I am concerned about the assertion that there is a lack of belief in the framework, particularly the credence that has been given to a survey which received only 61 replies. We have consulted extensively on all aspects of the framework and, as mentioned in your report, our independent five-year evaluation of more than 1,000 providers showed that 80 per cent thought the framework would improve performance, while 85 per cent said it would be a useful measurement tool.

As we implement post-2010 commissioning and quality management arrangements and move to greater self- regulation, I want the framework to become an invaluable tool for all those working in, and supporting, the sector.

I have listened carefully to comments from providers about the framework, and these have proved to be immensely valuable in helping to inform its future direction.

The framework has come a long way since its inception, but we recognise that further work is needed - that's why we are taking a fresh look at its structure. We know that it needs to be flexible enough to cope with the diversity of the post-16 sector, while remaining consistent so that it delivers fair judgments. For learners and employers, it must provide information that will help them to make the best choices in their training. It must also help those involved in commissioning to make informed decisions.

The value of the sector's role in identifying and implementing changes to the framework cannot be underestimated. We will continue to consult widely with providers to ensure that their views are heard. We already have a useful tool in the framework, but by working together we can make it indispensable in driving up standards across the FE sector.

Sion Simon, Minister for further education.

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