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'No excuses' for strong business voice

GIVING employers a central role in post-16 learning will help to rescue some of England's most socially-deprived areas, lecturers have been told.

John Harwood, chief executive of the Learning and Skills Council, made no excuses for the strong representation of business on its local and national bodies when he spoke to members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.

Addressing the union's conference on post-16 education on Monday, he set out his vision for the LSC, which takes over from the Further Education Funding Council and the training and enterprise councils in April 2001.

"There are too many areas where low achievement fuels social despair and the cycle of decline. No-go areas areas for learning can also become no-go areas for virtually everything else.

"We need to make some cultural changes in the way we regard learning and educational achievement, both academic and vocational. We can't have individual self-development without economic growth, and vice-versa.

"I welcome the increased commitment of many employers who understand the importance of education in the wider sense and not just of training.

"The current system does need a radical overhaul. There is an insufficient focus on quality. We need to give young people the opportunities and the choice they need. The level of competition between providers is not necessarily in the best interests of learners as a whole."

He said the LSC will initially concentrate on:

developing the training functions of the former ECs;

workplace training contracts, which finish at the end of March

the adult learning functions of local education authorities.

The FEFC's funding arrangements will be left in place for the time being. When the LSC takes over funding responsibility for school sixth forms, in 2002-03, funds will be passed to them via local education authorities.

Nigel de Gruchy, NASUWT's general secretary, says the working conditions of lecturers will have to be addressed if change is to be introduced smoothly.

"The morale of teachers has been seriously damaged as a consequence of the uncertainties which have beset the sector," he said, "and as a result of the creeping casualisation of post-16 teaching and other unfair institutional practices."

Malcolm Wicks, the lifelong learning minister, said the new regime would iron out the effects of excessive competition. "Schools, colleges and training providers must forge alliances that allow them to share epertise and resources. We've had too much wasteful competition."


John Harwood, chief executive of the LSC, has outlined the following timetable:

For April 2001 to July 2001, funding allocations notified by the FEFC will be honoured.

Payments for the summer period will be made by the LSC on an agreed profile.

For the 2001-02 teaching year, the FEFC system applies, with the LSC system having effect from 2002-03.

The aim is the conclusion of a funding agreement with each college over the period March 2001 to June 2001 at the latest.

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