Education and Training for the 21st century (1991)

This was the first of two education White Papers published by John Major's government in May 1991. It dealt with further education.

Education and Training for the 21st century (CM 1536) was published in two volumes:

Volume 1

Volume 2

The second White Paper (CM 1541), dealing with higher education, was Higher Education: A New Framework.

Education and Training for the 21st century was prepared for the web by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 5 June 2019.

White Paper: Education and Training for the 21st century (1991)

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1991
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.



In his Foreword to this White Paper, Prime Minister John Major wrote that his Conservative government sought to 'end the artificial divide between academic and vocational qualifications'.

The aims of the White Paper are set out on page 3 of Volume 1:

The school reforms introduced under the Education Reform Act are already strengthening the education system for pupils up to the age of 16. Youth Training has been transformed. We plan to build on these reforms, so that a fully-integrated system of education and training exists which allows steady progression from school through to further and higher education, and to training in work. Our policies will promote continuous learning from the age of 5 through education and throughout working life. Our overall aims of engaging more young people in education and training, and raising their attainment, require improvement throughout the system. We will:
  • establish a framework of vocational qualifications that are widely recognised and used, and that are relevant to the needs of the economy;
  • promote equal esteem for academic and vocational qualifications, and clearer and more accessible paths between them;
  • extend the range of services offered by school sixth forms and colleges, so that young people face fewer restrictions about what education or training they choose and where they take it up;
  • give Training and Enterprise Councils more scope to promote employer influence in education, and mutual support between employers and education;
  • stimulate more young people to train, through the offer of a training credit;
  • promote links between schools and employers, to ensure that pupils gain a good understanding of the world of work before they leave school;
  • ensure that all young people get better information and guidance about the choices available to them at 16 and as they progress through further education and training;
  • provide opportunities and incentives for young people to reach higher levels of attainment;
  • give colleges more freedom to expand their provision and respond more flexibly to the demands of their customers.
The White Paper proposed (in Chapter 9 of Volume 1) that sixth-form and further education colleges should be removed from local authority control. This may be seen as part of the Conservative government's desire to reduce the power and influence of the local authorities - a process begun by John Major's predecessor, Margaret Thatcher.

The White Paper's proposals, and those of Higher Education: A New Framework, formed the basis of the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act (6 March), which:

  • established the Further Education Funding Councils (FEFCs) (Section 1);
  • removed further education and sixth form colleges from LEA control (11);
  • unified the funding of higher education under the Higher Education Funding Councils (HEFCs) (62); and
  • abolished the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) (80).