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14-19 Project Team: Learning In Wales

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Jane Davidson, Minister for Education & Lifelong Learning
I wish to report progress on the commitment made in ‘The Learning Country’ to review 14-19 learning in Wales.  

‘The Learning Country’ set out the issues for Wales in developing appropriate provision for all our young people, especially between the ages of 14-19.  In this paving document I undertook to consult on these developments.

Developing learning pathways for 14-19 year olds in the 21st century is not about a narrow view of education.  It is certainly about raising standards for every child at school in Wales and we must continue to encourage Wales’ high level of achievement at GCSE and A level.  But it is also about academic and vocational balance and parity of esteem, training, skills, creativity, entrepreneurship, and the personal and social skills our young people need to give them the confidence to grasp opportunities and shape the future.

My Department’s Youth Policy Team is leading  these developments alongside Extending Entitlement, to ensure all aspects of provision for young people contribute to this ambitious agenda.

The Youth Policy Team will work in partnership with all those with an interest in 14-19 provision – inside and outside the Assembly - and report on how we might better develop the potential of all our young people, whatever their talents and abilities.

I want to emphasise that our commitment to working in partnership is a genuine one.  In developing our proposals we intend to involve the widest possible range of those with the best expertise and experience in the field – namely those who are at the forefront of delivery – teachers, lecturers, careers advisers, training providers, employers, the voluntary sector, and the organisations and agencies responsible for securing quality and delivery.

We also want to involve those who have the best experience of being on the receiving end.   Young people in the system have a valuable contribution to make to shaping future developments.

I want that depth of involvement to feature in formulating the recommendations.  It will be necessary to ensure they build on the best practice in Wales and will truly meet the needs of individuals and of the country as a whole.

There is already a great deal we can be proud of in Wales.  We have pioneered a range of distinctive policies which will help us take forward these developments, including Credis, the Welsh Bacc, Extending Entitlement, and our all age Basic Skills Strategy.

We now need to focus on practical issues such as tailored personal learning packages; out of school learning experiences which complement school-based learning; whether we need to disapply aspects of the national curriculum more widely, and what young people might do instead; what should the basic entitlement for young people look like, and should it be age related or about achievement of a certain standard; how we can help young people learn to learn – and keep on learning; increasing the status and quality of vocational pathways; better partnership and coherence between various learning providers so learners can access the appropriate teaching, resources and equipment in an environment where they can flourish… and much more.

One of the aims of our 14-19 developments must be to combat disaffection. The right provision, together with good support systems, will keep young people involved and stop them dropping out.  There are lessons to be learned from existing initiatives, including Estyn’s report on the Youth Access Initiative, with designated coordinators, effective collaborative work between schools and further education colleges, good referral systems, mentoring, counselling and other appropriate support for young people and monitoring of their progress.  

And there’s the innovative work undertaken in developing Youth Gateway and New Deal.  We need to mainstream the best practice in engaging those who are threatened by school, but also look for opportunities to apply the successful innovative practice to provision for others within the school system who may not be reaching their full potential.

We can also learn from some of our European neighbours.  In Denmark, for example, they’ve had great success in increasing the number of young people constructively involved in education or training up to 19, and in the level and extent of qualifications gained.  And they’ve made significant progress in establishing parity of esteem for academic and vocational routes.

This is the challenge.  

Many of the relevant organisations have already nominated representatives to work with my officials in the Department for Training and Education, as part of a project team and reference group which will be the mechanisms for extensive preliminary consultation with all those who want to contribute.  The representatives include schools, FE, HE, careers, training providers, ELWa, ACCAC, Estyn, WLGA, ADEW, Education Business Partnership, youth work and the voluntary sector.

I hope there will be widespread debate in all sectors which can be fed in to development for the 14-19 age range.  We need to make concrete proposals about what works best for young people and about what we need to do to provide the best opportunities for all.

I’d like those who want to have a say to make their views heard between now and August.  This will feed into the development of  recommendations which will be published for formal consultation at the end of October, when there will be time to comment on the proposals as a whole.  

We can then develop an action plan for implementation by April 2003, which will be based on this substantial exercise in partnership.  I shall want to take a phased approach to introducing those recommendations which are accepted.

Details about the consultation process, and work in progress, will shortly appear on the Assembly’s intranet and internet sites.

I urge everybody who is able to make a contribution to do so. The future is ours to shape, to secure a distinctive, innovative and inclusive 14-19 phase in the context of lifelong learning in Wales.