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Further education reform aims to boost UK skills

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Mar 27 (Reuters) Further education in England is set for a shake-up in an attempt to boost the skills of the nation's workers under government proposals published today.

The plans follow a critical report which found that Britain's skills were lagging behind those of its international competitors, threatening the country's future prosperity.

Last week Chancellor Gordon Brown announced an extra 76 million pounds of spending to help adult learners gain qualifications they missed at school.

Today's Further Education White Paper will set out a ''far-reaching programme of reform'', according to budget documents issued by the Treasury last week.

Last December former insurance chief Lord Leitch reported that Britain had to ''raise its game'' on workers' skills.

Leitch found that: - over a third of adults of working age have no basic school-leaving qualification - five million adults have no qualifications - one in six adults fail to have the literacy skills expected of an 11 year old.

The Confederation of British Industry has criticised further education colleges for offering a ''confusing mish-mash of services and standards'' and says firms get better service from private education providers.

On current plans government will spend over 10 billion pounds next year on further education across 400 colleges in England.

But the Association of Colleges says despite a 3 percent increase in funding there is still not enough money to prevent courses being cut and wants employers to spend more on training.

Colleges also face a possible strike from lecturers unhappy with a sub-inflation 1.5 per cent pay offer.

REUTERS SHB DS1250

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