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New law for 14-19 success

Legislation will oblige schools and colleges to work together to raise achievement.New legislation aimed at ensuring the success of the 14-19 Learning Pathways will make collaboration between schools and colleges a legal requirement.

Details of plans that attack non-co-operation between key partners were revealed to a 150-strong audience by deputy education minister John Griffiths in Cardiff last week.

He said the proposed 14-19 Learning Pathways measure, on which consultation will take place in January, would place a legal obligation on schools, governing bodies and local authorities to co-operate for the sake of learners.

Under the scheme, schools and FE colleges are expected to share timetables and subjects in a bid to raise choice and achievement.

But delegates at conference blamed a competitive funding system based on pupil numbers for past resistance to collaboration.

John Graystone, chief executive of post 16-body fforwm, said co-operation would only come with an overhaul of funding.

Funding plans for the 14-19 initiative draft budget plans for the next three years have already been attacked for being insufficient (TES Cymru, November 16). Education officials and heads contacted by this paper last week said cash allocated to the 14-19 age group was "too little" and has been at the expense of increased funding within early years.

But Wales's deputy education minister John Griffiths said it was essential that all schools and colleges "from Newtown to Newport" should give every pupil and student an equal chance of educational success by embracing the 14-19 pathways initiative.

In what he described as a plea, he added: "No school in Wales can go it alone - collaboration is the key."

He repeated government targets that 95 per cent of 25-year-olds needed to be ready for high-skilled work or higher education by 2015.

The 14-19 Learning Pathways is intended to widen vocational subject and curriculum choices for students. It is believed that teenagers who have become bored and alienated, particularly the less academically able, will become inspired under the new work-led curriculum.

Fears that heads will have an increased burden of care for their teenage pupils, as well as more demands on their budgets, were also voiced at the conference.

Gareth Jones, Welsh secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said pupils would become a greater "accident risk", especially with the journeys they will have to make during the day between schools and colleges.

"Let us assume there is an accident while the student is on a minibus going to another school," he said. "Who has the legal duty of care over that student? The answer is the head of the base school."

Every pupil and student will eventually be backed by their personal learning coaches under the 14-19 plans. It will also open up schools more than ever before. Early warnings have already beenmade about putting in place tighter risk-assessment policies.

But Alan Whiteman, from Caerphilly council's 14-19 unit, told delegates about the success of his county's scheme. He said some of the smaller schools only offered 12 subjects at AS-level but the figure had risen to more than 50.

A total of pound;32.5 million was pumped into the Learning Pathways in 2007-8.

In May 2006 a major report by Estyn found that only a third of schools and colleges in Wales were collaborating, leading Jane Davidson, former education minister, to say it was the most disappointing report that had ever crossed her desk.

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