From education to employment

LSIS CEO David Collins: Rumours of our death are greatly exaggerated

A poorly worded press release from the BIS press office, a largely inaccurate report from the CIPD on how much money could be saved by cutting various ‘quangos’ and Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) apparently is being abolished – at least according to The Daily Telegraph and The Independent. 

The reality of course is somewhat different. Like all “arm’s length bodies” (incidentally LSIS is a sector led body and not a ‘quango’ as such) the LSIS will not be immune from the cuts that are facing  the public sector.

This year’s budget, for example, has been slashed from £145m to £65m and no doubt in 2011-2012 there will be further efficiencies called for. But the Minister John Hayes is very much behind the organisation, carrying out the Conservative party’s stated intention of having “one improvement body” for Learning and Skills, and the sector has woken up to the opportunities in having some money set aside for innovation and improvement at a national level.

The last round of the Flexibility and Innovation Fund, for example, produced more than 250 collaborative bids to develop new ideas and “accelerate the drive for excellence”. Major projects that are underway include the establishment of a virtual management college for Learning and Skills staff (being developed in conjunction with LSN and the Association of Colleges) and a whole new approach to sector engagement with industry, spearheaded by 157 Group and the Association of Learning Providers.

The policy of “using the sector to develop the sector” has brought out the best in what is already the most successful part of our education system. Sixty percent of all LSIS delivery is now being undertaken by those currently employed in organisations that receive SFA or YPLA  funding and that figure will rise to 80 per cent over the next two years as the capacity of the sector increases. Essentially LSIS funding is being redirected back to the front line, focusing on quality improvement but funding colleges, private training providers and the adult and community sector to help themselves in providing an even better service for learners.

Participation levels in LSIS activities are also on the up. The launch of LSIS accounts to encourage all learning and skills organisations to take part in quality improvement activities has already had “sign up” from nearly a 1000 bodies and the range of what can be purchased from them is increasing all the time.

So what of the future? Undoubtedly the sector will be expected to contribute more to quality improvement but there will also be central support channelled through the SFA (and possibly the YPLA) to ensure that key national priorities are not overlooked. With the demise of other bodies, notably BECTA and the QCDA, there will, if anything, be additional opportunities for LSIS to pick up aspects of their work and carry it forward. Far from being dead and buried,  LSIS is very much alive and kicking!

David Collins is chief executive of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS)

Read other FE News articles by David Collins:

The new LSIS

For richer, for poorer

David Collins gets to grips with college economics

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