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Start 'em young

The QCA unveils its plans to get students thinking about work from a younger age. Keith Weller outlines the developments.

kWhat's new?

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is committed to workforce development, but its not just focusing on adults. From 2004, schools must give all 14 to 16 year-olds opportunities to:l learn through work, with direct engagement, for example, in work experience or part-time jobs, enterprise activities in schools and subject learning in vocational contexts;

* learn about work, gaining knowledge and understanding, for example, through vocational courses and careers education;

* learn for work, developing skills for enterprise and employability, for example, through problem-solving activities, work simulations, and mock interviews.This approach reflects the QCA's belief that the context of learning is as important as the specific skills and knowledge gained.

Why is work-related learning important?A broad and balanced education helps young people prepare for an increasingly complex and changing world of work. And young people need to know that their studies are relevant to their future lives. They also want assurance that what they learn will make them more employable.

Low self-esteem and limited aspirations can stop students from going on to post-16 education and training. By improving their knowledge of the labour market and employers' needs we can can raise their aspirations.

Work-related learning provides the connection between learning and earning.

It supports progression in education, helping young people to make informed decisions about careers.

How do schools know and show what students have learnt ?There is no statutory requirement for formal assessment of what students have gained from their work-related learning programmes. However, good programmes will typically include checks on students' progress against clear learning outcomes and expectations. Schools may record learning in a Progress File and perhaps offer local certification. Such certification is a service that many local education-business link organisations already provide. Many outcomes are likely to contribute to GCSE and other qualifications.

Keith Weller is deputy chief executive of the QCAThe authority has developed a national framework that reflects good practice in work-related learning. Full details on the 14-19 learning section of its website: www.qca.org.uk14-19

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