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London's vocational first

The country's first academy for vocational training for 14 to 19-year-olds is being planned for the capital.

Jacqui Henderson, London's regional director of the Learning and Skills Council, told The TES that the idea is part of a plan to meet the capital's skills shortages.

"We want to create a centre of excellence for young people interested in gaining the very best vocational education and training, and which will also deliver the national curriculum," she said.

The final report by a Government task force into the future of secondary qualifications, led by former chief inspector Mike Tomlinson, is expected to report this autumn. It has already called for more vocational subjects in schools and colleges.

More than 950,000 young people aged 14 to 16 attend further education colleges for vocational subjects, such as engineering and manufacturing, as part of their normal school day.

But Mrs Henderson, who presides over a budget of more than pound;1 billion, said she wanted to see the best facilities and teaching expertise offered on one site. Academic AS and A-levels would also be available with vocational subjects. Should the scheme go ahead, businesses and industry would be encouraged to offer extensive work experience to pupils.

"It is absolutely essential that we bring in the expertise and knowledge of the capital's employers and ensure young people have the opportunity to gain experience in a work environment as well as an educational institution," said Mrs Henderson.

Mrs Henderson said the scheme was in its early days - sponsors are still being sought for the academy.

Private sponsors must raise at least pound;2 million to cover building costs for academies while the Government provides the rest, which is usually around pound;18m. A dozen academies have opened since 2002 and a further 41 are due to open by 2007.

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