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The Secretary of State for Education and Skills Alan Johnson MP has announced that the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone is to be authorised with unique powers to formulate and implement a strategy for developing adult skills specific to the capital, something that the University and College Union (UCU) welcomes. (For more information on Mr. Johnson's announcement, please click here).

Under the new guidelines, skills requirements and policies will be formulated through the new London Skills and Employment Board and there will be a single Learning and Skills Council (LSC) expressly designated to London. UCU national official Christiane Ohsan was emphatically positive about the announcement: "UCU welcomes the creation of a single LSC for London and the introduction of some democratic accountability in the creation of skills policy."

Tailoring

Understanding the needs to tailor the skills delivery to the capital, Christiane continued: "This is a very sensible and much needed development and something which we (when in predecessor union NATFHE) have long argued for. It will now be possible for the development of a skills strategy which can serve the unique needs of London and its diverse population rather than crudely satisfy the demands of national targets."

The appointment comes at a particularly acute time following recent cuts in the adult education budget that have already claimed thousands of jobs, as the government strives to specialise the delivery of its skills budget to specific groups. A NATFHE survey has indicated that many courses have suffered as a result, including adult and community learning, foundation studies for students with learning difficulties, adult construction courses, A-levels, GCSE's and English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). The cuts to ESOL will reverberate especially, in light of the recent story as reported on here at FE News, concerning immigrants who possess the skills to work in Britain but cannot speak the language.

"Nationally there is currently a dreadful culling of adult education courses which will devastate adult learning provision in September," explains Christiane. "The UCU hopes to talk directly to the Mayor about an appropriate skills strategy, as we can provide the extensive local and professional knowledge of lecturers and trainers from throughout London. Hopefully London may now be able to avoid the worst impact of this by developing priorities which are sensitive to the needs of local people."

Vijay Pattni

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