Accounts hit by shake-up

14th April 2000 at 01:00
GOVERNMENT plans to subsidise adult education through learning accounts face six months of serious disruption.

Some local training and enterprise councils (TECs) stopped issuing individual learning accounts in March, ready for the handover to the new learning and skills councils.

But the Department for Education and Employment has yet to announce a new central provider for the scheme, which goes national in September.

Colleges fear this six-month hold on learning accounts will prevent the programme gaining its momentum.

Individual learning accounts are central to the Government's aim of promoting lifelong learning. Under the scheme individuals put in pound;25 and the Government provides pound;150 to pay for courses. A target group of up to 10 million potential account-holders is anticipated.

The accounts have been funded through TECs. Some will continue to provide them ntil September, but most areas now face a gap in provision.

In the South-west, this transition is causing headaches for colleges. Some of the region's TECs have put accounts on hold while others continue them.

This has hit initiatives such as Bargaining for Skills, a joint Trades Union Congress and TEC project promoting work-based learning.

Alan Shearn of South-west TUC said: "The way we have been using learning accounts with trade union members has been very successful. There's confusion when things are put on hold. It does cause us frustration."

John Brennan, the Association of Colleges' director of FE development, said the gap is disruptive.

"It undermines confidence," he said. "One would have hoped that by this stage, having spent two years on it, the Government would have enough of the detail to have a framework in place."

Martin Whittaker

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