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Positive start for inclusiveness

"VERY positive developments" have been reported in the first progress report on implementing the recommendations of the Beattie committee - but Robert Beattie himself has warned that more needs to be done.

The committee called for urgent action to ensure that the very vulnerable do not drop out of education and training after they leave school. The Scottish Executive subsequently backed recommendations, including key worker and mentor support, and has confirmed that the funding put in - pound;22 million for 2001-04 - will continue beyond 2004.

The report from the Beattie national action group, however, issued a reminder that the committee had called for spending on inclusiveness to be mainstreamed into normal budgets for colleges and other key organisations.

This would ensure that inclusiveness becomes a core part of their agenda "rather than an add-on or something for which only specialists or a minority of staff are responsible".

Mr Beattie, the former IBM executive who was first chair of the FE funding council, commended the "exciting and encouraging" strides that have been taken so far and hoped these would soon become "business as usual".

But he added: "With so much work going on, it is appropriate that this report should not say, 'Look how clever we are and how hard we are working', but rather, 'Here is what has happened to date and we want your views on what is good, what is bad, what needs to change and what additional work needs to take place'."

Iain Gray, Lifelong Learning Minister, also hailed the progress but acknowledged that the challenge remains. "There are still too many young people who slip through the net."

The progress report shows that 13 inclusiveness projects have been set up under the Beattie agenda, involving 120 new key workers to support young people. Some 3,426 of them were helped to move on to employment and training and 2,060 into education.

Staff development and training in colleges is being undertaken by the BRITE initiative, Beattie Resources for Inclusiveness in Technology and Education. Some 70 FE staff are currently registered on the programme which was set up with the help of pound;4.5 million from the Executive.

A "get ready for work" initiative has also been set up and 2,826 young people have been drawn into training since April last year although only 746 have been successful in finding work.

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