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New team skills for Northern Ireland

TREVOR Carson knows a thing or two about teamwork.

On Saturdays he follows the ups and unders of the All Ireland rugby league for his weekly reports in the Belfast Telegraph. But on Mondays he will be in training for his new role as director of the soon-to-be-launched Learning and Skills Development Agency for Northern Ireland.

A former full-back for Belfast University, Mr Carson says he is excited at the prospect of implementing what is an expansion of the LSDA beyond England and Wales.

He comes to his new role from the Association of Northern Ireland Colleges, where he was curriculum development officer for FE.

That experience will serve him well, for as well as professional development for staff and governors and the implementation of the "lecturers into industry" scheme, the LSDA's priorities include curriculum development for 16 to 19-year-olds. He said: "I'm in the odd position of shadowing myself at the moment."

Although LSDA Northern Ireland will officially launch later in the year - based in Belfast - Mr Carson is already in post and has been pulling together a seven-strong staff. Together, his team will provide services aimed primarily at the province's 16 FE colleges and organisations providing adult and community learning.

He said: "This is an exciting time for the FE sector in Northern Ireland in that we have a formal structure to support.

"What is particularly exciting is that we have a culture between our colleges that is more collaborative than competitive. So the sum of the individual parties will mean a significant bonus for the colleges in terms of outcomes."

The expansion of the LSDA comes at a crucial point for Northern Ireland.

The region once boasted 30 FE colleges, but now has 16.

"The Review of Further Education means that support for the sector in terms of curriculum and professional development is of paramount importance in Northern Ireland," Mr Carson said.

"It is very good that the resources of the LSDA can be used to the benefit of our colleges and staff."

He says that much of the services offered, already running effectively in England and Wales, will be specifically tailored to meet the needs of Northern Ireland.

Its curriculum development programme will focus on helping colleges to raise standards, increase student participation, deliver and manage new qualifications for 16 to 19-year-olds and offer more flexibility to students. Support services will include networks for teachers and lecturers, staff development materials, a website, information and telephone helplines, and events such as training and subject specific workshops.

There are also plans for a programme of continuing professional development for college principals, senior managers, lecturers and governors.

The "lecturers into industry" scheme provides work placements for lecturers in software engineering, hospitality and construction. It may now be expanded to other vocational areas.

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