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Three-year plan for self-improvement

Long-awaited plans to drive up standards in colleges and training centres were launched by the Government's quality improvement chief this week.

Unveiling proposals which go out for consultation over the summer, Andrew Thomson, chief executive of the Quality Improvement Agency, said all staff and managers would be in for the long haul. While he wants a rapid response to consultations - with an initial strategy in place by the autumn - "it will be subject to regular review and evaluation until 2009," he said.

The QIA was created last year to be the lead agent in the Government's initiative to ratchet up standards in colleges, independent training providers and school sixth forms.

Ministers were critical of what they saw as poor standards at the time. It was a concern reiterated by Bill Rammell, minister for further and higher education, at the launch of the new quality strategy report this week.

"Driving up standards and tackling underperformance are among the most important elements of the reforms we announced in our recent FE white paper," he said.

However, Mr Thomson insisted that changes could not come overnight. "My job in the next three to four months is to go out and promote the strategy and get a supported plan of action to the Secretary of State. This is a three-year programme to promote self-improvement."

Measures include a network of advisers to help colleges and others tailor what they provide to the needs of individuals, companies and communities.

New materials and tools are promised, to help staff and managers assess and improve their own performance.

An "excellence gateway" - a portal on the QIA website - will be created to help individual teachers and colleges share best practice.

There will be new professional development programmes for leaders, managers and staff working in FE. A national learner panel will be created with the aim of making sure students' views are acted on.

During the three-year programme, the different national agencies competing in the fields of quality assurance, improvement and control will also be expected to stick to their respective responsibilities and not compete for business on the same ground.

The QIA aims to have the national learners panel in place by the end of this year. By the end of 2007, it will offer a range of resources and models of good practice to promote effective partnerships among colleges.

The deadline for consultations on the report, Pursuing excellence: an outline improvement strategy for consultation is October 20.

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