Now it's learning inclusion

29th September 2000 at 01:00
FE colleges will see pound;78m more spent on their sector in the next three years, reports Neil Munro

A NEW MANTRA of "learning inclusion" was unveiled this week by Henry McLeish, the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister, as he announced details of his budget following last week's spending announcement.

Mr McLeish's department will be responsible for spending pound;2.27 billion by 2003-04, pound;300 million up on the current sum. Seventy per cent of the total will go on the department's learning responsibilities, which the minister said reflected his view that "learning, learning, learning" must now move centre stage to build a skilled population and a competitive economic edge.

The plans involve an additional pound;78m for the FE funding council to spend on colleges over the next three years, and pound;88m more for the HE council. Student support will rise by pound;69m, with pound;18m directed to widening access and increasing student numbers.

The extra cash, which was widely welcomed by FE and HE organisations, will see the FE totals go up by 22 per cent in cash terms and 13 per cent in real terms, and by 14 per cent and 6 per cent in HE. Mr McLeish said the increases were intended, not just to bring in more students, but also for teaching and learning, property, and "a huge drive to create an e-infrastructure".

The FE colleges will also benefit from the lion's share of a pound;22.5m programme which Mr McLeish hoped would largely eradicate the problem of adult literacy and numeracy in 10 years. Three-quarters of the sum will go to FE and the rest to the voluntary sector, he said.

The programme will take account of findings fro the adult literacy task force which Mr McLeish set up and which is due to report to him by December. But he has already decided that the number of adult literacy trainers will be increased from 40 to 250 by next April.

"Learning inclusion" is also being underlined by a pound;4m extension to the educational maintenance allowance to two or three other areas of Scotland. It is being piloted in East Ayrshire, giving students who would normally plan to leave school at 16 an incentive worth up to pound;40 a week to stay on.

Mr McLeish also confirmed there would be pound;22m to implement the recommendations of the Beattie committee to ease the post-school transition of youngsters with special needs into work or further study, including more for FE and careers guidance.

The careers service itself is to get an extra pound;9m over the three years to allow it to become an all-age service in line with the recommendations of the Duffner committee. Other measures include pound;10m extra for learndirect.scotland to enhance lifelong learning, and an additional pound;1.5m for the national training organisations.

Mr McLeish has earmarked pound;40m to implement the proposals of his task force on the knowledge economy which is due to report soon. A share will go to colleges and universities and they will also benefit from the UK capital modernisation fund aimed at building up the IT infrastructure of the public services.

Mr McLeish said his policies were about "creating opportunities and removing barriers". That meant young people who have the ability should be able to compete in a race which was more like the Derby than the Grand National.

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