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Start the new year with standards in mind

Christmas may have come early for many of us working in FE with the publication of the Department for Education's new minimum standards for the 16-19 age range.

The standards come during a time of rapid change and upheaval for the sector, but they will provide a welcome steer for education professionals, young people and their parentsguardians as they look towards the future.

The government's minimum standards for the 2011-12 academic year will cover all schools and colleges for 16- to 18-year-olds and provide a clear picture of how they are performing across a range of indicators. These are vitally important for everyone involved in the education process, as they will help to raise standards and establish clear benchmarks for all schools and colleges to work towards.

Of course, putting schools and colleges under scrutiny can be a double-edged sword. The ones that are already performing well have spent many years establishing practices and systems to allow them to reach a level of excellence. It is now more imperative than ever that best practice and knowledge is shared between education establishments.

Many schools and colleges will not have this luxury and need to start looking at and investing in processes that will analyse how they are performing at every stage of academic life.

It is heartening that the government is taking the 16-19 sector seriously and wants to see standards raised, but we now need to focus the discussion on how we are going to achieve this and give our young people the best possible start in their working lives.

Kate Reynolds, Chief executive, Learning Plus UK.

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