Ministers unveil plans for training inspection

All work-based training will be subject to tough scrutiny by teams of inspectors similar to those carried out in schools and colleges under plans announced by ministers this week.

The training and enterprise councils' national council has been asked to draw up a framework based on plans it put to employment minister James Paice last month. The decision of Mr Paice to give TECs a key planning role is a major step forward in the council's bid to ensure more rigorous quality assurance in work-based training.

It will also bring more closely together inspection frameworks for colleges and private training providers. The TEC national council and the Further Education Funding Council have been working closely on a framework which both workplace and college inspectorates could use.

A steering group for a national training inspectorate will be set up in the next few months. It will include TECs and Department for Education and Employment. Terry Melia, former FEFC chief inspector, will be an adviser on the group.

The inspectors will have powers to scrutinise an estimated 4,000 training providers. The move to set up a steering group follows on from the Government's consultation paper on self-assessment and training last August.

Mr Paice said: "External inspection is already highly valued in schools and colleges. The introduction of external inspection to work-based training affirms the Government's commitment to quality and these arrangements, building on self-assessment by training providers, will give them the information and stimulus to reinforce their own efforts to provide high-quality training. "

They also introduce the principle of "a single quality standard for self-assessment and inspection of work-based training," he said. It was a major part of the Government's commitment to see convergence of the quality assurance frameworks for education and training.

It would also help cut the bureacracy for education and training providers who have to provide evidence that they have met the demands of different quality assurance regimes.

The TEC national council proposals include setting up a quality council to oversee the inspection arrangements, chaired by a nationally respected figure of independent standing and including representatives of employers, training providers and others.

A national inspection unit, led by a chief inspector, would build a trained, assessed and accredited inspectorate, manage and control a national programme of inspections and prepare inspection reports for publication, just as the FEFC do. Inspections are also likely to take place over a four-year cycle.

Chris Humphries, TEC national council policy director, said: "The project will provide the TEC movement with an important opportunity to build on its current commitment to high-quality work-based training through independent validation and public reporting."

An employer-led quality council would be set up as an interim measure within the next few weeks, he said.

He promised wide consultation over plans for the national inspection unit. It was intended that pilot schemes would be in place by June.

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