Changes to education provision may hinder horticulture training

Horticulture industry figures have warned that changes to the way education is delivered in the UK could damage horticulture training.

The changes are outlined in a Government White Paper, Raising Expectations: Enabling the System to Deliver, by the Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills and the Department for Children, Schools & Families.

Colleges and sixth forms will be helped to deliver the reforms needed to increase the training and education age to 18 by a £7bn transfer to local authorities. The Government will also direct £4bn annually to a new agency to improve skills and training for adults.

The move will result in the dissolution of the Learning & Skills Council (LSC) by 2010.

The proposals put local authorities in control of providing training and education for people up to 19-years-old, and the ability to commission provision to meet demand from employers and young people.

By working with national agencies and the Regional Development Agency, councils will provide a funding and planning system for further education colleges and providers. Local authorities will be responsible for delivering the full range of 14-19 entitlements, including the new diplomas, apprenticeships and the foundation learning tier.

HTA training and careers manager Tanya Robinson said: "This change will add complexity and variability into the system, resulting in a fragmented approach towards horticultural training across the county. If a particular local authority does not see horticulture as a priority, it could make it complicated to access funding whether you are a business or a college.

"Our fear is that it will dilute the focus on horticultural training and make the system more complex."

Capel Manor principal Steve Dowbiggin said: "What we need is for horticulture education and training to be planned and resourced on a regional basis in the same way as is currently done by the LSC and London Development Agency."

He added that it could lead to an increase in bureaucracy if colleges had to deal with individual local authorities, despite government assurances otherwise.

"It's a great shame that just when we're making progress... in colleges in being able to provide facilities that actually meet horticulture's individual needs, some of this could be undermined by the new regulations."

- See feature, p25.

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