Times are turbulent, and "caution" is the operative word: as the private sector is hit by non-lending banks and evaporating credit, the public sector is being forced to cut its cloth drastically to suit new frugal Britain.

 The new Government dealt everyone a huge reality check with its latest budget which proved the problems aren’t going anywhere without action, and the education sector, like any other, needs to respond creatively and dynamically to the financial challenges facing the sector. We can see the aid isn’t about to come flooding in from outside the sector, so it’s down to us to help ourselves, and each other. So what can be done?

 I have written in this column before about how organisations like NCFE should be making life as easy as possible for the front-line service providers. About how, by sticking to values such as customer service and value, we can do simple things that make a huge difference.

Being as open and honest as possible would be a good start: offering transparency and having an open pricing policy, for example, can really make a difference as budget spend is calculated.

Taking an honest and transparent approach might seem like a given, or a pre-requisite, but it obviously isn’t: as recently as last November, Ofqual commissioned two separate reports aimed at informing the development of a framework of economic regulation and fee-capping within our sector.

Both studies, published in July 2010, strongly indicated the importance of pricing transparency and those recommendations will be published in October.

We say why wait to be told what to do? Ofqual’s measures, whatever they may prove to be, will doubtless aim to create a more open, predictable marketplace, driven by necessity and demand.

But the need for openness is there right now and, with that in mind, NCFE released its price list for 2010/11 this month. In doing so, we broke ground in the sector by being the first awarding body to do so this year.

We did this, not to boast, not even to invite comparisons (though that will inevitably happen) – rather, we wanted to make sure that our customers had as much time as possible to plan their budgets.

Further, fans of a year-on-year comparison will note that our prices this year, under the QCF framework, have been very closely matched to last year’s NQF equivalents. The switch from NQF to QCF has taken a lot of hard work and development time and we have gone to great lengths to make sure that the ‘switch’ going on behind the scenes has not impacted on customers – most importantly with the prices.

We will always aim to provide the best value and service – and I suppose it’s our customers who will be the judges of whether or not we achieve that. However, what we can promise, emphatically, is that we always act with our customers’ best interests at heart.

A well-known supermarket chain keeps on telling us that ‘every little helps’ – this is just one of the many ‘little’ things that NCFE is doing to help provide a platform for education and training providers to get on with what they do best as efficiently and easily as possible.

David Grailey is the chief executive of NCFE, the qualification awarding body


Read other FE News articles by David Grailey:

Proactively engaging the private sector with education and training

Filling the gaps amid funding cuts

A bit of wishful thinking for stability

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