21 March 2008
The Learning and Skills Council will be dissolved and town halls will take control of the £7bn spent each year in colleges and sixth forms, ministers confirmed this week.
The proposal, originally mooted in the government's sub-national review published in July 2007, was fleshed out in Raising expectations, a white paper issued on March 17.
Under the proposals, the LSC would cease to exist in 2010 and its responsibilities for funding the training of people up to the age of 19 would pass into councils' hands. The LSC's adult functions – £4bn a year is spent on adult training – would be taken over by a new, smaller Skills Funding Agency.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls said the government was committed to revolutionising the education system so there was something available for everyone, whatever part of the country they lived in.
'Local authorities are in the best place to respond to the needs of young people locally. So, by giving them responsibility for the funding, we are putting the final pieces in place to ensure they can offer this choice,' he said. 'They are already responsible for schools, are taking responsibility for advising young people and are being given new duties to ensure that the right range of provision is in place for young people to continue in education and training until 19.'
Les Lawrence, chair of the Local Government Association's children and young people's board, welcomed the move but called on ministers to honour their commitment to giving councils a central role in further education and training.
'The way the new system operates must bring to life the Machinery of Government commitment of giving councils the clear strategic lead for 14–19 education and training, and must support councils in carrying it out effectively,' he said.
Under the changes, councils will be responsible for delivering the full range of 14–19 education and training entitlements, including apprenticeships and the new diplomas.
They will also be able to commission services to meet demand from young people and employers.
The Association of Colleges welcomed the move to a single, national funding system – something it has long campaigned for. Acting chief executive Sue Dutton said: 'Colleges support the principle that funding will follow the learner – funding for the same qualification regardless of location and institution. We applaud the fact that learner and employer choice are centre stage… and welcome the possibilities of an enhanced role for colleges where schools are failing.'
The Skills Funding Agency will take on the management of a new adult advancement and careers service, which will work closely with Jobcentre Plus in guiding people towards the right training to meet their needs.
The government is hosting a consultation on the key proposals, which closes in June.