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Kelly's FE policy criticised

AN interfaith further-education forum, which includes Church of England representatives, has criticised government proposals on further education, suggesting that they ignore the moral and spiritual needs of young people taking vocational courses in further-education colleges.

A statement on White Papers on Education and Skills 2005, sent to the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Ruth Kelly, last week, is the first interfaith comment of its kind. It says that all 16-19 institutions, both schools and FE colleges, should have an equal duty to provide for the spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development of all students. It also argues that the Government's proposals for FE students are too narrow, and lack challenge and stretch.

"With 43 per cent of young people in FE colleges, it smacks of residual class divisions for these (mainly vocational) students to continue to be excluded from such entitlement, especially in a period when not all families and neighbourhoods can yet demonstrate the capacity to support the development of a clear set of values," it says.

The statement questions whether the detail in the Government's proposals for 14-19-year-olds matches its rhetoric on breadth of learning for all students. It asks whether the proposals as they stand can achieve parity of esteem and quality between academic and vocational routes. "If they are to contribute to society to their full potential, vocational students need opportunities to grapple with wider ethical and cultural implications of their chosen fields on employment."

Alan Murray, the Churches' national adviser on further education, said the Churches were strengthening their commitment to young people in further education. A five-year strategy on FE will be presented to General Synod next February and subsequently to the Methodist Conference and the Free Church Federal Council.


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