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Welfare Reform on the Web (February 2010): Education - UK - training

The role of external inspection in the public services: the case of the UK training market

P. Lewis and P. Ryan

Public Administration, vol.87, 2009, p. 791-817

The authors consider two interpretations of the role of external inspection in the public services in the UK in the context of publicly funded, work-based training programmes for young people. The first is that inspection provides substantive information to buyers about training quality, thereby improving the efficiency of the training market. The second is that it provides procedurally oriented reassurance concerning service quality to the public, irrespective of substantive quality. Evidence is drawn from the inspection procedures and reports of the Adult Learning Inspectorate between 2001 and 2005. The inspectors rated training providers on various attributes, some clearly procedural, others potentially substantive. However, they attached considerably more weight to procedural than substantive attributes.

Unleashing aspiration: the final report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions

London: Cabinet Office, 2009

Elitism in the professions and a lack of focus on careers in schools mean that bright youngsters from low income families are being excluded from professional jobs. Up to seven million more professionals are likely to be needed in Britain by 2020 as the global economy expands. A new focus is therefore needed, the report says, to unleash aspiration in all children and make social mobility the number one social policy priority for this and future governments. Over 80 recommendations are in the final report including:

  • All young children need dedicated careers support from primary school. 'Connexions' is not the right service for this and should be replaced.
  • Every state school should provide soft skills training and Ofsted should inspect schools on their extra curricular training.
  • Cadet schemes should be available for all state schools to increase confidence in children and open up jobs at higher levels in the armed forces. Currently the majority of schemes run in independent schools.
  • Parents should have the right of redress for schools consistently failing their children and have the right to move children to better schools.
  • At the same time the professions should review their recruitment and internship practices and report to Government by 2010 on improvements.
  • Statistics should be published on university admissions annually with more detail on pupil backgrounds. The senior civil service should take the lead by publishing the socio-economic backgrounds of all entrants to the senior civil service, drawing on what they currently do for diversity.
  • Universities should offer modular degrees and flexible learning. Student finance should be available for part-time students, as it is for full-time students.
  • People needing training should have their own Government funded budget which individuals control through a new 'Lifelong Skill Account' worth up to 5,000.

Unleashing aspiration: the government response to the final report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

London: TSO, 2010 (Cm7755)

This report on increasing social mobility includes proposals that:

  • Middle-class applicants should pay more in tuition fees and achieve higher grades at A-level than the less well-off to secure a university place.
  • The professions should be forced to subsidise work experience and internships for those from poor backgrounds. They will also have to draw up recruitment guidelines designed to ensure 'fairer access' and make it easier to start a career.
  • Local authorities and the civil service should be allowed to discriminate against middle-class job applicants.
  • Professions will have their efforts to attract more applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds policed by three new quangos. A Social Mobility Commission will report on the professions' progress, while the Gateway to the Professions Collaborative Forum will draw up guidelines on recruitment and training and the National Internship Service will oversee the subsidised work placements scheme for poorer applicants.
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