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One body to direct funding;Post-16 reform;FE Focus

As consultation closes on a radical shake-up for education and training Ngaio Crequer and George Low report

A NATIONAL council for lifelong learning, established by statute, should be responsible for the planning, funding and regulation of post-16 education and training, says the Association of Colleges.

In their 17-page response to the Government's review the AOC only mentioned training and enterprise councils in a reference to the weaknesses of the present system.

The Further Education Funding Council would be abolished and the new body's remit would be FE, post-16 work in schools, training both in the workplace and for the unemployed, and adult education. In time it might take over the administration of New Deal programmes. The council would be accountable to and directed by the Secretary of State.

There would be regional offices of the new national council, modelled on existing Further Education Funding Council structures. But it would not be appropriate for Regional Development Associations to provide this regional function.

The emerging lifelong learning partnerships would form the basis of sub-regional groupings to ensure local needs are met. They may need to be given a legal base and they should be widened to include employers and education and training providers.

There would need to be a common funding regime for all the education and training within the council's remit. For schools, funding could be channelled as an earmarked grant through the local authority for onward distribution. Or funding could flow directly to individual schools. The association "does not believe that the benefits of a common funding system can be realised unless all relevant work is brought within the scope of a single funding body".

The AOC calls for a single inspection body which must be independent of the council to ensure that judgments are not coloured by the policies and perspectives of the latter.

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