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Training is key for post-16s

I welcome the report of the National Commission on Education and its general theme of the need for improvement but I must take exception to one aspect of it. It is made quite clear that the Commission feels that the only way that 16- to 18-year-olds can be prepared for work is through the existing educational institutions. This is despite the clear evidence that these are the very organisations that have not met their needs, and in some cases have let them down badly.

I was a principal lecturer in a large further education college until all senior and principal lecturer posts were declared redundant. I have since joined a training organisation, and met a large number of young people whose needs were not met by schools. I discovered that rather than being expelled they were sent on "extended work experience", which at best meant working for a local employer for nothing, and at worst a euphemism for "get lost, we don't want to know you". Others were advised not to bother entering any GCSEs.

Large numbers of these youngster have since been helped into employment and training via youth training. Like many in formal education I have sneered at these schemes as being simply a way to massage unemployment figures. I now know that there have been genuine benefits to large numbers of the 16-20 age group. To insist that these people spend one-and-a-half days a week in college is quite meaningless unless the programme is going to be occupationally relevant and include what are now known as core skills. The very regressive idea that simply time-serving in a college will be of benefit has no place in the 21st century. I had hoped that this message from the National Council for Vocational Qualifications had got through.

KEYTH RICHARDSON Link Training 38 Lurke Street, Bedford

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