Dr Ann Limb CBE, the independent business Chair of the LSCC

Five ‘big ideas’ which are vital to ensure the UK skills sector is able to play the critical role it should in post Covid19 recovery 

The last few years have seen a period of worldwide social, political, and cultural upheaval. Change has been, and will continue to be, shaped by Brexit, Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, underpinned by a growing awareness of climate change and rapid digitalisation.

Together, these factors create a potent environment for transformation. Now is the moment for us to reflect on the values and ways of thinking that underpin our behaviours, decision-making and resource allocation. Skills is no exception to this as the significance of further and adult education rises near to the top of the government’s list of economic recovery solutions.

During the long years of ‘new’ Labour, neither Tony Blair nor Gordon Brown, as Prime Minister, delivered a key policy speech on skills from an FE College. Within the space of the last two years, two Conservative Prime Ministers, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, have chosen the platform of an FE College from which to mark a demonstrable change in approach to the sector matched by a commitment to addressing long term chronic underfunding.    

This is welcome but it’s not enough. Below I outline five ‘big ideas’ which I believe are vital to consider together to ensure that the UK skills sector is able to play the critical role it should do in the recovery of the economy post Covid19. They are not original, and all need to be scrutinised more deeply. All require leadership and action from government, businesses, educational professionals and civil society.

1. Integrating reforms in the Further Education and Devolution White Papers

Skills policies have often been side-lined in favour of education policies, with governments focusing on the latter and third sector organisations or employers being left to address adult education. However, this solution has proved inadequate, and the impact of this is set to be felt more acutely than ever before as we endure a severe economic downturn.

We urgently require a further education and adult education sector where people of any age can acquire vocational and technical skills, secure apprenticeships or improve basic numeracy, literacy and language skills throughout their life. This is why the government’s commitment to introduce a lifetime learning guarantee is to be applauded.

Mass unemployment is approaching. The independent think tank, the Resolution Foundation, reports that 30% of workers have lost their jobs and now need reskilling at a time when the jobs market is saturated with new graduates who also face employment challenges.

Now is the perfect opportunity to integrate policy by linking reforms in the forthcoming White Papers on Further Education and Devolution. The government should seize the moment to devise and implement a strategic skills policy, coordinated at national level, delivered with and through local systems – colleges and providers. This will drive radical change across the education and training landscape and meet the needs of a drastically changed economic environment.

2. A long term 10 year plan for education and skills

Just as the government has developed a 10 year plan for the NHS, a similar approach needs to be taken for education and skills delivery, regarding these as essential rights just as we do with healthcare, protected from short term parliamentary thinking.

Widespread evidence indicates that taking a future look at things helps turn ‘present disagreements into assets not liabilities’, encouraging the exchange of different understandings and helping find common ground.

A long-term plan like this, shaped by all those impacted by skills and education strategies, has the potential to transform the nation and improve the prospects of future generations. Support for such an idea is already present, and now is the time to bite the bullet

3. An independent National Education and Skills Scrutiny Commission

Modelled on the National Infrastructure Commission, the government should create a National Education and Skills Scrutiny Commission, involving a broad range of individuals, organisations, communities and businesses at a regional and local level.

This body could then engage with, but exist outside of, current political structures, providing independent oversight of an agreed 10-year plan for education and skills, with the freedom to create regional and local scrutiny committees, complementing current trends towards devolution.

Diversity of ideas and representation in these committees is of the utmost priority, ensuring that they benefit from the broadest range of expertise and lived experience.

The current moment of ‘national crisis’ presents another opportunity here; to highlight the benefits of wide-reaching collaboration between individuals and groups from a varied set of backgrounds and opinions.

4. A digital premium for digitally excluded students, workers and households

Covid-19 has massively hastened the existing move towards digitalisation, spurring many of us to rapidly develop new digital skills. But it has also highlighted inequality, with 1.9 million UK households not having access to the internet, isolating these people from the rest of society.

With the shift towards digitalisation likely to remain permanent when the Covid-19 crisis is over, it will be essential to ensure that everyone has access to the internet.

One solution to fund this initiative would be donations from charitable foundations associated with giant tech companies who have benefitted hugely from the pandemic, such as Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, Zoom, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Apple.

The infrastructure to distribute these funds effectively already exists, through institutions such as schools, colleges, universities, government offices and trade unions.

5. A Post Qualification Admissions system for university entrance

Teacher assessment and predicated grades have become the norm in 2020, highlighting flaws in the use of this system for offering university places. Added to which, the summer Ofqual debacle has seen some Vice Chancellors now calling for A level exams to be scrapped for 2021. If ever there was a moment for transformation it is now.

As far as back as 1997, the Dearing Report argued for significance changes in the applications system to university. The Blair government did not heed the call. A subsequent review of admissions in 2004, commissioned by the government, concluded that ‘relying on predicted grades, cannot be fair … since it is based on data which are not reliable, is not transparent for applicants or institutions, and may present barriers to applicants who lack self-confidence.’ The report urged the immediate creation of a post-qualification admissions system.

With the admissions system already in turmoil, why not turn a crisis into the opportunity to create a better and fairer admissions system for the long term.

Ann Limb Vice Chair, City & Guilds

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page