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A sector striving for higher esteem

All the evidence of the past 15 months shows that the learning and skills sector is in for the long game when it comes to much-needed reforms.

It is still a sector ill at ease with itself and uncertain of its exact position in the scale of things educational. But nowhere near as much as it was in the 1990s - a time whose passing no one should lament.

As the contents of this special report affirm, change has gone beyond the realm of big ideas and tentative testing, to implementation of far-reaching policies to improve teaching and learning, workforce development, leadership and choice. Alongside which is a raft of measures to slash red tape and devolve decision- making - measures that must be watched with vigilance if bureaucrats are not to take a tighter grip.

What is at stake is not just a rebadging exercise to make sense of a huge and diverse sector (important though that is) but changes to give post-16 education and training the esteem it deserves and quality of skills that are the envy of the world. This cannot be achieved overnight. If the Government has given Mike Tomlinson's committee until 2010 to recommend and implement A-level reforms, transforming learning and skills will take at least as long.

Alan Johnson, the lifelong learning minister, has promised: "No more initiatives" (page 15). There are more than enough already to see most people in the sector to retirement. Strategies under Success for All range from test beds for new partnerships and teaching materials (page 8) to reform of teacher training (page 12) and the new Centre of Excellence in Leadership (page 6).

There is unprecedented co-operation and goodwill for what is planned and this must be given time and money to develop. Stop-go expansion on the cheap characterised the 1990s. It must not be allowed to blight Success for All.

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