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Wait for one inquiry and two come along

A second major investigation into the state of education and training for 14 to 19-year-olds was launched this week.

Professor Richard Pring of Oxford university is leading the three-year, pound;500,000 study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

It comes as the Government taskforce, led by Mike Tomlinson, is half-way through its 18-month inquiry into this area.

Professor Pring said the new research would be independent of ministers and was necessary despite the taskforce's wide-ranging investigation. He said:

"(The taskforce) has a very short time in which to report and therefore it may not be possible for it to subject all of the research evidence to a really thorough critical inquiry."

Academics will review research and there will be a series of seminars involving teachers, lecturers, trainers, exam boards, employers, government officials and others.

Among the areas to be investigated are the funding system and the effectiveness of work-based learning schemes.

Professor Pring said the project would not duplicate the work of Mr Tomlinson's group, which is drawing up plans for a baccalaureate-style diploma to replace GCSEs and A-levels, but it might want to take on board some of the findings.

The study will produce its first report in the summer, just as Mr Tomlinson makes his final recommendations to ministers.

Professor Pring added: "The 14 to 19 phase has become more important because of its pivotal position between compulsory education and lifelong learning.

"What the Nuffield Review will seek to do is to provide a critical overview of whether current provision gives young people the skills they need."

Other academics on the project are Dr Geoff Hayward of Oxford university; Dr Ewart Keep, Warwick university; Dr Ann Hodgson and Dr Ken Spours, London university's institute of education and Jill Johnson, of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

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