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Standards tsar set to lead revolution

A POST-16 further education standards tsar is to be appointed by the Government.

The new director of teaching and learning will head a unit at the Department for Education and Skills, employing around 30 staff, including some seconded from colleges.

Margaret Hodge, lifelong learning and higher education minister, said the director of the new unit will be a "champion" for FE.

Next month, Education Secretary Estelle Morris will publish proposals for a new strategy which she hopes will transform FE.

These proposals will include the creation of the standards unit, which is prompted partly by ministerial concern about "uneven" quality in FE and training.

In April, Ms Hodge used a speech to the Social Market Foundation to launch a debate on standards in colleges. She said this week: "The creation of this unit underlines our intent to improve quality and raise success rates. We will develop an approach to teaching and learning that excites, energises and engages teachers, while drawing on their expertise. The unit will develop new teaching strategies for particular curriculum areas and ensure teachers and lecturers are trained in their use.

"This unit will transform and modernise FE, be responsive to employer needs, and help give the country the skills it needs to boost productivity."

The director of the unit will be responsible to Janice Shiner, director general of lifelong learning. He or she will work closely with the Learning and Skills Council, the Learning and Skills Development Agency, the Office for Standards in Education and the Adult Learning Inspectorate.

There are concerns that the new unit would increase bureaucracy, at a time when FE is acknowledged to be over-burdened with red tape.

But colleges and unions welcome the fact that people with first-hand experience of FE will be seconded to the unit.

Judith Norrington, director of quality and curriculum at the Association of Colleges, said: "The Government has to acknowledge the link between quality and funding. Unless there is adequate core funding, it is really difficult to continue to develop quality standards to an even higher level."

Ms Shiner said the unit would develop new approaches and resources for curriculum areas. It would help to develop e-learning, and implement proposals for a new national leadership college.

The new director, who will be based in London or Sheffield, must have experience of teaching and of management in education. The post will attract a salary of around pound;85,000. There will be an initial three-year contract which may be renewed or made permanent.

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