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pound;2.5bn bill for fairer funding

THE Government's chief advisers on funding for colleges have put the bill for modernising the sector at almost pound;2.5 billion over five years - the same as the employers and unions.

Around pound;450 million to pound;500m a year is needed to level the funding playing field for schools and colleges and boost vocational training in line with government targets, the Learning and Skills Council has estimated.

The cost of bridging the funding gap between 16 to 18-year-olds in further education, and schools, would be pound;280m a year, says the council.

To bring the funding of work-based learning for 16 to 18-year-olds up to that of school sixth forms would cost around pound;75m a year. The LSC figures are contained in its response to the Government's Green Paper on 14 to 19 education and training.

There are also costs associated with the introduction of wider choice from the age of 14, it points out in its response to the consultation paper. This is because there would be smaller class sizes for vocational subjects at 14 to 16, and a need for in-service training for staff.

The council estimates it would cost pound;100m annually to enable 200,000 young people aged 14 to 16 to pursue vocational options. In addition, capital costs over a five-year period would be between pound;100m and pound;150m.

There would be some savings in more effective use of resources, and benefits to the economy by reducing the current waste of talent.

The council says that the Government's proposal for a new over-arching award needs further careful consideration. It supports the award, provided it has credibility and currency with employers and higher education and that it was a motivating and not a distracting factor for young people.

The full cost of reforms could be higher than the LSC predicts, if the estimated 12 per cent pay gap between lecturers and school teachers is to be closed. The Association of Colleges and the lecturers' union NATFHE put the cost at around pound;500m.

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