Delegates were disappointed not to hear more from the Scottish Office on the final shape of its adult guidance strategy, despite the consultation period having ended in April.
Marian Docherty, the HMI with responsibility for adult guidance, outlined the significant progress of the past few years, but said greater national direction was needed. She added, however, that she was precluded from saying more while her department was digesting the responses to the consultation.
She did say that the Scottish Office might wish to produce a combined strategy covering the national skills forum, which is due to report to the Secretary of State next month, and the European Year of Lifelong Learning. Significantly, Scottish Office co-ordination of these plans is controlled by its training division.
The TESS understands that the delay stems from the preparations needed for a major launch in January bringing together all these initiatives, which implies a sensitive task in balancing the interests of the various education and employment "stakeholders." The prospect that Michael Forsyth, the Secretary of State, may himself wish to unveil the grand design has added to these sensitivities in an election year.
The adult guidance proposals were issued in February by Mr Forsyth at the UK launch in Edinburgh of the European Year of Lifelong Learning. Ms Docherty confirmed the responses had been "positive". The key recommendations were for a national guidance helpline, a national database linked to it, local frameworks to match these national facilities, and a central adult guidance team to augment the five part-time co-ordinators who currently provide the service.
These moves imply increased resources but Ms Docherty said the position would not "improve suddenly".