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Tough new standards spell end for Coves

centres of Vocational Excellence will be scrapped over the next three years to be replaced by a new, tougher standard.

As part of the Government's response to the Leitch report on skills, the Learning and Skills Council will be asking colleges and other training providers to earn "New Standard" status to accredit their efforts to engage with employers.

There are more than 400 Centres of Vocational Excellence which will have to reapply under the new criteria or lose their status by 2010. Applications will cost about pound;8,500 each, although LSC support will be available for those already part of the Cove scheme.

The New Standard is intended to be a credible national mark to guide employers to find relevant training that will be responsive to their needs, increasing their confidence in external training and cutting the pound;5 billion cost to businesses of managing it.

Colleges and private training providers will be independently assessed on 32 indicators, covering their ability to adapt to the needs of individual employers and their expertise in a particular industry, examining their processes and results.

As part of the accreditation, every employer which uses the training provider will be asked to rate them on a scale of one to ten. If they are successful, the accreditation is valid for three years. If they fail, they must wait six months before reapplying.

Maggie Scott, the Association of Colleges' director of learning and quality, said colleges regretted losing the Cove branding, which they believed was well-known and well-regarded.

"I think it would be a shame to lose that dimension of being the ambassador, the celebrator of vocational education, and if that dimension of sharing good practice was lost," she said.

In its response to Leitch, the Government is also calling for the launch of new apprenticeships, including ones in the public sector and creative industries, to help meet last year's pledge to enable all teenagers to train as apprentices if they wish to. There will also be a trial of a pre apprenticeship programme in 2008.

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