Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett's decision to establish a Training Standards Council and an inspectorate reporting directly to him at last makes training publicly accountable as it has been throughout education for many years.
The new training inspection framework is modelled on the successful inspection framework developed by the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC). Seven aspects of training will be covered by the new inspectorate.
These are: training and assessment; trainees' achievements; trainee support; management of training; resources; equal opportunities and quality assurance.
Providers of training will be expected to undertake regular self -assessment which will inform and be validated by external inspection leading to a published report.
Inspectors' assessments will be set out clearly in the reports and their judgments will be summarised on a five-point grading scale similar to that employed in college inspections. The inspectorate will be staffed by both full-time and part-time inspectors - again arrangements remarkably similar to those operated by the FEFC.
Commentators might soon begin to wonder why we need so many separate bodies to undertake similar tasks. Gazers into the millennium crystal ball might see the letters OFSVET and those with a zoom-in facility might detect the meaning of this acronym - the Office for Standards in Vocational Education and Training. They might then begin to speculate about this new body. It might, for example embrace: * the work currently carried out by the FEFC inspectorate; * that work to be undertaken by the Training Inspectorate; * the post-16 arm of OFSTED; * any quality assurance arrangements put in place by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority for post-16 general and vocational education; and * the verifying and central approval arrangements operated by the further education and training awarding bodies.
Such soothsayers might speculate further that the work of the OFSVET should be overseen by the representative committee appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Employment that would ensure the independence of judgment of the new body whose head would report not only to the committee but also to the Secretary of State. As the mists begin to engulf the crystal ball close scrutiny reveals the wispy words "New Labour Manifesto 2001".
Well, you never know!
Terry Melia is former chief inspector with the Further Education Funding Council and chairman of the Further Education Development Agency