Shephard's seven sectors

Geraldine Hackett

The structure of the new Department for Education and Employment is expected to reflect the priority that is to be given to ensuring schools adopt vocational as well as academic courses, writes Geraldine Hackett.

Gillian Shephard, the Education and Employment Secretary, is consulting on plans to overhaul the work of officials and bring education and employment within seven directorates. The employment service will retain its own chief executive.

The bulk of work covering statutory education and the organisation of sixth forms will come under a director of schools policy. However, responsibility for the curriculum from the age of 14 will pass to the director in charge of further and higher education. It seems that one directorate will deal with the question of qualifications.

The directorate will be responsible for implementing the recommendations in the second stage of Sir Ron Dearing's review of qualifications for 16 to 19-year-olds if they are approved by ministers next April. It is also expected to take responsibility for the 14-16 vocational education initiative now being phased in.

Although HE and FE have been divided between two ministers (Eric Forth and James Paice), the two areas will come within one directorate. They will be dealt with in the unit that takes on youth training and 16-19 issues.

The seven directors will be drawn from the ranks of the departments' deputy secretaries and under-secretaries, with overall responsibility taken by the joint permanent secretaries, Michael Bichard and Tim Lankester.

Meanwhile, the Labour party is not restructuring its front bench to take account of the end of the Department of Employment. Harriet Harman, employment frontbencher, will continue to promote campaigns on issues like low pay.

The front bench will be reshuffled after the shadow Cabinet elections in the autumn. Labour leader Tony Blair is likely to want changes that could provide him with the basis for a Labour government. While Ms Harman is likely to be given a prominent post, most observers expect David Blunkett to remain at education.

The shake-up of departments has forced Labour to examine the question of the administration of government. The party is likely to want a department that focuses on the labour market and strategies for creating employment. The outcome could be an overhaul of Whitehall.

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