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Tax incentives

I am increasingly frustrated by a lack of truly "dramatic" initiatives in FE. Why can't we have colleges that are not just in partnership with schools and businesses but are one contiguous structure? I read this week about a college that has taken over a local school with plans to offer vocational, academic differentiation at 14. Great idea. Why can't every college be like that? And what about large tax incentives for the employer to offset the cost of apprenticeships?

Interestingly, the type of system you talk about reflects the educational structure of a number of our European neighbours - the same ones we are trying to compete with economically. In Italy, for example, the scuola media (a comprehensive middle school) offers three years general education before pupils enter either a technical school or the liceo classico.

It is worth considering that a similar system here may bring about the pay parity and equal teaching status that remains such a prickly issue between the two sectors. It would also obviate the need for a diploma and build the reputation of vocational pathways.

As for employers, how much influence they should be allowed to exert and to what extent they should become involved in assessment, remain points of contention. Certainly, employers are aware that sooner rather than later they will need to refresh their skilled work force; Gieves and Hawkes in Savile Row have been prepared to invest pound;80,000 per apprentice, so apparent is the looming crisis in trained tailors.

Whether Newham College of FE, that is providing the sartorial skills for Gieves and Hawkes, are permitted to insert their college identity in the shop window remains to be seen. Better still, will it mean a new suit for the principal?

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