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Wales seeks ideas for the future

Education and Learning Wales (ELWa), the new body responsible for further education and training in Wales, is to hold a series of public meetings as part of the consultation on its corporate plan.

Olivia Schofield, head of strategy and policy for ELWa, told last week's annual conference of Fforwm - the Welsh Colleges Forum - that four regional meetings would be held this month, starting in Carmarthen on June 12.

She said ELWa's plan, to be sent to the National Assembly next month, would set out priorities for 2002-5, but would also contain a 10-year vision. "This is our first plan," she said. "There will never be a better chance to be unorthodox and create something new."

ELWa's pound;400 million annual budget covers the former roles of Further Education Funding Council for Wales and the training and enterprise councils.

Enid Rowlands, chair of its national council told the conference that ELWa's key objective was to "focus on the customer - the learner - hether as an individual, community or business".

Speaking under the title "From co-ordination to collaboration", she said colleges should raise aspirations which were often too low, rather than compete with each other. She envisaged colleges as the core focus for learning in communities, collaborating with schools and the private and voluntary sectors.

She envisaged the creation of networks of specialist scntres of excellence where colleges would draw students studying their specialism from the catchment areas of neighbouring colleges.

Bryn Davies, principal of Ystrad Mynach college, challenged Ms Rowlands, saying that that the public sector was inhibited with innovation or risk-taking by "50,000 auditors who demand 100 per cent success or else", Ms Rowlands accepted that this was an issue, but said that ELWa was committed to enabling innovation. If sensible arrangements could be devised, it was prepared to take the flak when things went wrong.

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