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14-19 Education

Volume 456: debated on Tuesday 6 February 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what progress his Department has made towards the delivery of the 14-19 implementation plan. (112154)

The Department has made substantial progress in delivering the objectives published in December 2005 in the 14-19 implementation plan. Delivery is on track with all three key priorities set out in the plan.

The first priority in the plan is putting a strong focus on improving the system now so that young people stay in learning and achieve. Here there have been substantial improvements in the numbers of young people achieving level 2 qualifications by the age of 19. This follows work on a joint action plan which we agreed with the Learning and Skills Council in response to a review by the Prime Minister’s delivery unit. The action has included identifying local areas for targeted action. The September guarantee of a learning place for year 11 leavers is already operating in many areas and will be universal by 2008. Many areas already have a prospectus covering all the learning opportunities for young people, and all areas will have this in place by 2008. The numbers of young people completing apprenticeships continue to rise, the latest figure for completion rates for apprenticeships now at around 53 per cent.

The second priority in the plan is reforming the curriculum and qualifications available to 14-to 19-year-olds so that more young people are motivated and engaged in learning. Development of the new diplomas is on track: criteria for the first five diplomas were published in November 2006 and the qualifications are being developed for roll-out in September 2008. New standards for functional skills in English, maths and ICT have been developed and are being trialled around the country in preparation for a national pilot starting in September 2007. We have announced a new A* grade for A-level in order to put extra challenge into the qualification, and we are testing options for students to offer an extended project. There has also been substantial work by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in reviewing the secondary curriculum at key stage 3 and 4, and revised programmes of study will shortly be going out for consultation. A new framework of personal, learning and thinking skills has been developed and will be embedded in the new qualifications. There are also trials under way for a new foundation learning tier, offering qualifications below level 2, and we are testing options for re-engaging 14-to 16-year-olds in learning.

The third priority is creating the infrastructure needed to deliver the new curriculum and qualifications in every area of England. Legislation is now in place for introduction of a new entitlement for young people to access the new diplomas in 2013. Three hundred and twenty four local consortia have submitted applications to offer the new diplomas in 2008 and their self-assessments will be considered by regional panels over the next month. We have secured additional funding to support local areas offering the diplomas—£50 million for work force development and £40 million for facilities. Seventy eight local areas have attended learning visits hosted by 14-19 pathfinder areas in order to learn how to deliver 14-19 provision effectively.