The Chief Executive of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) Mark Haysom called for the sector's attention to be re - focused on the way forward to further success, regardless of what he describes as a "challenging funding environment".

Speaking to the assembled FE professionals at the Leaning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) Conference at the London Hilton Metropole Hotel, Mr. Haysom acknowledged that there had been huge success enjoyed by the sector in many areas (with record levels of young people in the sector and rising standards of provision). But he urged vigilance upon his audience, and proceeded to highlight both the year's accomplishments and the challenges ahead.

"A Vision of Excellence and Quality"

The year has seen a number of advancements in the sector. The publication of a clear set of priorities for the sector, he feels, will further clarify the best way forward. The year also saw the launch of Sector Skills agreements, and the Sector Skills Councils growing in importance and influence.

There has also been what is described by Mr. Haysom as "substantial" capital investment this year, and an effective recruitment programme for directors and programme leaders, both of which he draws attention to as they will help to recruit learners and higher quality lecturers as well. He urges continued efforts, as the developing record of achievement is "vital as we turn to the 14 "“ 19 Skills Paper from the DfES" (Department for Education and Skills), and calls up what he calls a "vision of excellence and quality."

"Life is Unfair?"

With all this in mind, it is hardly surprising that Mr. Haysom called for an "accelerated pace of change" in the sector. He told the audience that in his opinion government funding was at the highest level it was likely to reach, and would therefore be unable to expand at the same rate as the FE sector.

He then took this opportunity to remind those assembled that the more the sector is seen to deliver, the more resources the sector can expect to receive; not just from the Government sources, but also from employers and individuals as the perceived value to them rises, thus building a compelling business case based on achievement. As he put it, the FE sctor "can"t get more money simply by saying "life is unfair".

Delivering for Everyone

After this confirmation of the need to seek out new sources of funding, Mr. Haysom turned to the Agenda for Change and touched on some of the key themes in the next steps. Amongst these were the need to change the way that employees view the sector, alongside the long "“ term mission to drive up the public's perceptions of the sector (addressing the "esteem problem" that is of increasing concern as levels rise but the public value judgement lags behind).

Mr. Haysom also told the audience that colleges should now demonstrate that they have "good business pratices" "“ a brief return to his earlier point on new avenues for funding. This is all connected to a "newer and fairer approach to funding" that, alongside the good work already done, will represent a "transformational" time for the sector.

The Agenda for Change is still welcoming consultations "“ Mr. Haysom particularly mentioned the need to consult with governors "“ and is not an end, rather a means. But he is confident of the future, saying that he believes "the sector can deliver for individuals, employers, communities an the economy."

Jethro Marsh

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