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Colleges hit out at Learning and Skills Council as decision on VRQs is delayed

01 March 2007 by
Colleges hit out at Learning and Skills Council as decision on VRQs is delayed

Catering colleges have attacked the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) for failing to commit to funding City & Guilds' new professional cookery diplomas nationally.

The Vocationally Related Qualifications (VRQs) were introduced last September in 15 colleges to replace the old City and Guilds 706 series of qualifications, and are being pitched as an alternative to the much-maligned National Vocational Qualifications.

Despite praise from leading chefs and a warm reception from catering colleges, the LSC has not yet guaranteed vital extra cash to expand the scheme nationally.

At last week's Fit 4 Pace conference in Coventry, John Dalton, senior policy manager at the LSC, said the agency needed more data from the trial before it could commit to further funding.

He came under fire from college representatives keen to introduce the new qualifications in the new academic year but frustrated by the agency's hesitancy.

They argued that a decision down the line would be too late because they needed to make the case for investing in new equipment and teaching materials to their principals now to be ready for the new term.

Mary Schramm, head of school of catering at Merton College in south London, said: "The bottom line is that we intend to run the diploma from September, but without a funding commitment from the LSC the college simply won't allow us to do so.

"We're working on developing materials for the course now but if there's no firm commitment by August our efforts will have been wasted for now."

The view was backed by Neil Rippington, head of the Centre of Hospitality and Food Studies at Colchester Institute - one of the 15 colleges testing the VRQs - who said the 12 mandatory units it comprised gave the qualifications rigour, which students had responded to enthusiastically.

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By Chris Druce

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