THE CONTINUING improvement of colleges has led to student success rates exceeding ministers' expectations a year ahead of schedule. Recent figures show success rates reaching 77 per cent in 2005-06 against the goal of 78 per cent in 2007-08.
Combined with the progress made in apprenticeships, the Learning and Skills Council claims the performance of students and trainees has vindicated the Government's approach over the last few years.
Mark Haysom, chief executive of the LSC, said: "Behind the figures lies the real story, which is that more young people and adults are getting the qualifications they need to succeed in life. I would like to congratulate all of our partners in the sector for their hard work."
John Brennan, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said:
"Colleges should be proud of these record rates. They are a tribute to individual learners as well as college staff and managers. Colleges have again responded positively to government challenges and are ensuring that people get the right qualifications to succeed."
In apprenticeship programmes, private training providers are also celebrating as trainees continue to do better - although many claim reality is even brighter than statistics suggest. Some firms report a shortfall of up to 10 percentage points in success rates because figures don't take account of students suspending training through circumstances such as illness or pregnancy.
Graham Hoyle, chief executive of the Association of Learning Providers, said: "The system was counting apprentices who suspend their studies as giving up."
Stephen Gardner, director of work-based learning at the LSC, estimated overall under-reporting of success rates at 2 per cent but said the LSC was moving to a new measure for recording apprenticeship passes in the future.