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Report cover showing adult students.

Improving Student Performance – How English Further Education Colleges Can Improve Student Retention and Achievement 

“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.

Published:
2 Mar 2001
Report cover showing doctors training staff on a dummy

Educating and Training the Future Health Professional Workforce for England

“Educating and training increased numbers of nursing, midwifery and other health professional students is a key way of overcoming the shortage of such staff in the NHS. The NHS and higher education institutions must continue working together to improve value for money, to ensure more students complete courses, to reduce the constraints on providing practical experience, and to invest in new capacity where needed. Healthcare professionals provide much of the service that patients need and expect, and a cost effective world class education and training system must be the foundation for delivering this.”

Sir Andrew Foster, the Controller of the Audit Commission, said today:

“Healthcare staff are the lifeblood of the NHS. Developing their skills and abilities is vital both to the quality of patient care and the modernisation of the NHS. We need to actively manage and plan for the training of our nurses, therapists and other staff. Everyone, from front-line staff to trust board members, must show commitment to a culture which values and expects training and learning.”

The Audit Commission’s Hidden Talents report focuses on the existing healthcare workforce and looks at how trusts can get the best value from their training and development activities. The National Audit Office’s report to Parliament, Educating and Training the Future Health Professional Workforce for England, reviews the effectiveness of arrangements between the NHS and higher education institutions for educating and training pre-registration health professional students.

The detailed findings of the two reports are set out in the attached annexes.

Published:
1 Mar 2001
Report cover showing the front entrance to the Victoria and Albert museum

Access to the Victoria and Albert Museum

“The work of the V&A contributes to the Government’s aim of extending access to the arts. The museum is clearly working hard to broaden access to its collections and to make the Museum a more visitor-friendly place.

“However, the sharp fall in visitor numbers in 1999-2000 shows that more needs to be done. The V&A needs to press ahead with the work in hand to improve public understanding of the nature of its collections and to improve the way they are presented. The V&A also needs to improve communication about the activities it offers. There are good things going on at the V&A but not enough people know about them”.

Published:
22 Feb 2001

Choosing the right FABRIC

A joint publication by the NAO, HM Treasury, Cabinet Office, Audit Commission and Office for National Statistics summarising our common thinking on this subject, in particular the need for a good system of performance information to be Focused, Appropriate, Balanced, Robust, Integrated and Cost Effective.

Published:
20 Feb 2001
Report cover showing a drawing of Falstaff

Tackling Obesity in England

Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, told Parliament today that the prevalence of obesity in England had tripled over the last 20 years and continues to rise. Most adults in England are now overweight, and one in five is obese. Producing the first authoritative estimates of the costs and consequences of obesity … Read more

Published:
15 Feb 2001

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) Appropriation Accounts 1999-2000

“I am concerned at the significant delays in achieving the final implementation of this database system by the dvla, particularly as its predecessor was known not to be millennium-compliant. The agency took a high-risk but necessary decision to implement the final phases in October 1999, before system testing was fully completed. In doing so, they avoided the breakdown of a key customer service to both enforcement agencies and the public.”

The report also comments positively on other aspects of the DVLA’s operations.

Published:
14 Feb 2001

Inland Revenue Appropriation Accounts 1999 – 2000

“The Inland Revenue took on significant additional responsibilities during 1999-00 and continues to manage a challenging change programme. New schemes, such as tax credits, have, in general, gone smoothly but the Department should ensure that action is taken to manage risks which have emerged during the implementation of some projects.”

Published:
9 Feb 2001

Departments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer: HM Customs and Excise Appropriation Account 1999 – 2000

“Because of serious failings by HM Customs and Excise, revenue of over £600 million has been lost from the diversion of alcohol onto the UK market. I am concerned about these substantial losses and I will be making a further report to Parliament on the causes of the diversion fraud, the lessons to be learned and the action planned by Customs.”

In reviewing Customs’ systems, Sir John also reported on the operation of the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme which permits landfill site operators to reclaim contributions towards environmental projects under the Landfill Tax Regulations.

The regulations and the workings of the scheme itself are complex; and payments for projects that fall within the scheme’s rules are not public expenditure because decisions to contribute to environmental projects are made by landfill site operators. This makes external examination of the value-for-money achieved by the scheme difficult for anyone to assess. Sir John concludes among other things that:

In other parts of his report, Sir John recorded the results of his examination of a variety of key systems operated by the Department. Work on import controls highlighted the need to improve checks by Customs at Belfast docks on consignments imported from outside the European Union which ensure that the correct amount of duties has been paid by importers. Sir John concluded that both risk assessment and control over movements were weak, and that significant reliance was placed on importers to pay the correct amount of duty.

Published:
9 Feb 2001