International Education Comparisons – A compendium of published information on education provision and achievement in 10 countries
1 Aug 2006
“Despite the large sums of money being invested in encouraging innovation, central government isn’t making the most of the opportunities to improve the delivery of public services. Innovation within service delivery is vital and government must be sure that it encourages staff to contribute, listens to the people who use its services and measures what it is getting for the investment made.”
“Partnerships like the one between the Inland Revenue and EDS, rely on trust and understanding between two organisations, qualities which are particularly important as requirements change and develop. Management of the risks associated with new work is therefore a challenging area for value for money. Much has already been achieved, and the Department must ensure that it retains the capability to manage the relationship and keep its options open for the future.”
“In some respects, this was a very good and innovative scheme: it was popular and encouraged many people to acquire or update much needed skills. But the speed with which the Department implemented the scheme resulted in corners being cut. Poor planning and risk management by the Department led to weaknesses in the system which made fraudulent activities possible. And the Department did not keep their eye on the quality of the learning and on the indications that a few unscrupulous providers were taking advantage of the inadequate security arrangements.
“I look to the Department to take account of these lessons when devising and implementing the new scheme.”
“Further education colleges, with the support of the Funding Council and the Department, have done well over the past five years to increase the proportion of students who achieve their qualifications. In particular we were pleased to see that the number of colleges with overall achievement rates below 50 per cent has reduced dramatically.
“Overall success rates remain disappointing, however, and the gap between the best and worst performing colleges is still too wide. Poorer performing colleges need to adopt the good practices of the best if they are to help the Government meet the National Learning Targets2.”
The further education sector provides a wide range of education and training opportunities to people from school leaving-age upwards. There are some 400 further education colleges in England, enabling 3.8 million students to study for some 17,000 different qualifications from about 480 awarding bodies, at a cost to the public purse of some £3 billion.
The Department for Education and Employment is responsible for determining the overall policy for further education and the Further Education Funding Council is responsible for implementing it. From April 2001 a new Learning and Skills Council will replace the Further Education Funding Council and Training and Enterprise Councils. (Training and Enterprise Councils are private sector companies which manage local training and enterprise activities under a performance-based contract with the Secretary of State for Employment).
1 Success rates are the number of qualification aims achieved as a proportion of those started, even though students may subsequently have dropped them. Achievement rates do not take account of qualifications started but not completed.
The National Learning Targets represent the Government’s aim of making a substantial improvement in participation and achievement in education and training at every level
‘ National Vocational Qualifications
” General National Vocational Qualifications
The Comptroller and Auditor General, Sir John Bourn, is the head of the National Audit Office employing some 750 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.
Student achievement rates in English higher education institutions have remained high during a period of considerable expansion of student numbers, although rates vary widely between institutions. The higher education sector will have to recruit and retain more students from hitherto poorly represented social groups and help them to succeed if the government’s learning targets are … Read more
In collaboration with the National Governors Association, the National Audit Office has updated its well-received guide for school governors. The guide was first published in May 2006 alongside our value for money report on Improving poorly performing schools. It is intended to help both new and experienced primary and secondary school governors, as well as school leaders, identify and tackle the issues important to their schools’ organisation and performance.
“Better attendance at school by pupils improves their educational achievements and, in turn, their lives and prospects. Even a small reduction in absence would result in many pupils receiving greater benefit from their education.
“The rate of absence from schools in England has proved difficult to reduce. However, the efforts of the Department for Education and Skills, local authorities and schools are starting to have an impact. They must keep up the momentum and reinforce in schools and among parents and pupils the importance of attending school.”
“Modern procurement processes have reached a stage where they can bring colleges big savings – money that they can redeploy to direct services for learners. All colleges should seize the opportunities and support that are now readily available to help them implement the necessary improvements.”
A large proportion of schools in England provide high standards of education, with pupil attainment improving in primary and secondary schools. However, some schools are performing less well. The Department for Education and Skills and Ofsted use several definitions to identify schools that are performing poorly and need additional support; among the 1,557 schools included … Read more