CBI wants cash credits for all 16-year-olds

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Indy Politics
ALL 16-year-olds should receive cash credits of up to pounds 3,000 to spend on education and training courses of their choice as part of a programme to increase Britain's economic competitiveness, employers said yesterday.

The Confederation of British Industry said that it also wanted a single qualification to replace A-levels and vocational exams in a report which says the period between 16 and 19 is the Achilles' heel of Britain's education system.

Both ideas appear to be at odds with government policy. Ministers plan that all 16- year-old school leavers will receive training cash credits by 1996. The CBI wants all 16- year-olds to be offered such cash credits, which they would be free to spend in state schools and further education colleges as well as on training courses.

Their value would range from pounds 800 to pounds 3,000, depending on the cost of the course. The employers say no extra public spending would be involved because of savings in child benefit and because more school leavers would choose training credits and fewer full-time education.

Ministers have resisted proposals to change A-levels, though the idea of an Advanced Diploma combining academic and vocational elements was included in a White Paper 18 months ago. The CBI paper says that although the diploma is now unlikely to materialise, it was an important first move in establishing parity of esteem between academic and vocational qualifications.

Sir Bryan Nicholson, chairman of the CBI's education and training affairs committee, said: 'The Government has been half-hearted in its approach to 16-19 education and training. We need bold confident moves to put an effective system in place.'

Earlier, Howard Davies, the CBI's director-general, reminded a conference on performance league tables that British education lagged behind that of our major competitors. Calling for an independent body to publish test and exam league tables instead, he said: 'I am quite sure it is a big political mistake for ministers to leave their fingerprints on the tables.'

John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, told the conference that employers should use the new exam league tables to find out how their local schools were performing.

Routes for Success; CBI's education and training affairs committee; pounds 15 ( pounds 10 for members).