Launching New Challenges, New Chances recently John Hayes made it clear that the document sets the course for FE and skills for the rest of the Government’s term in office. It draws on extensive consultation with the sector and although set in the context of severe economic and fiscal restraint, with this commitment from the Minister for FE, Skills and Lifelong Learning, New Challenges, New Chances offers a degree of stability in terms of our expectations of policy and the direction of forward funding. As a result, everyone in the learning and skills sector should be able to plan ahead with more certainty.
For LSIS as the sector's own improvement body, the future holds major challenges and opportunities as we work with the sector as they take up the freedoms and flexibilities afforded in this new order. And we are delighted to be acting on the sector’s behalf – directed as always by our partner providers’ views and needs.
To address the new agendas, it is crystal clear that driving effective teaching and learning must be at the heart of everything LSIS does. The recent Ofsted Chief Inspector’s report makes it imperative that we improve in this area for learners by achieving consistency in delivery across all subject areas and practices. LSIS has been charged in particular with improving the quality of teaching and learning for English and for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. In line with our strategic priorities, at LSIS we are committed to taking a number of actions that will help to develop and promote excellence in these and other areas.
Notably the action LSIS is taking to improve teaching and learning includes working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Institute for Learning to establish an independent commission on adult education and vocational pedagogy. The aim is to develop a sector owned policy, strategy and delivery programme. The work will be underpinned by LSIS’s continuing support for workforce development, including managing and maintaining qualifications and standards for the lifelong learning sector, developing new models of delivery in initial teacher training, and piloting the creation of a network of advanced practitioners. These practitioners will build on the role that expert trainers played in bringing on our best talent at the Worldskills event, which resulted in our best medal haul ever this year.
New Challenges, New Chances also sets out major freedoms for colleges in relation to strategic governance. As a result colleges will need to take a fresh look at their future role in engaging with and delivering for their communities, and in working with a wide range of partners. At LSIS we will be working with the AoC, 157 Group, NIACE and the Skills Funding Agency, to develop a dynamic programme that will stimulate, encourage and support governors, principals and staff to develop their capabilities and capacity to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them. To achieve this through a coherent programme with measureable impact, we must have a co-ordinated approach across three distinct strands of activity:
- support for colleges in developing new models of governance and delivery;
- AOC work to develop support materials to underpin the recently published Foundation Code of Governance;
- follow up work from NIACE’s report on Colleges in their Communities.
Where there is underperformance, LSIS will continue to have a key role in intervention. If improvement is not achieved within a set period, colleges will undertake a ‘Structure and Prospects Appraisal’. This will be coupled with intensive support and direction from a sector-led team with credible experience of significant FE restructuring or innovation. The team will have the capacity to examine and implement radical reform. Working through LSIS, the sector will own, lead and manage the deployment of this intensive support.
The New Challenges, New Chances reforms also place new demands on the capability and capacity of the sector for innovative and effective development of learning programmes. These programmes must respond to the needs of local adult learners and their employers, and take account of local labour market information. They will require new collaborative approaches to delivering HE programmes and pathways for progression from FE to HE. To support and reinforce sector advancement, in line with our strategic priority to advance curriculum development, we will continue to play a key role in all aspects of this vitally important strand of our work.
So the New Year will have a big and important agenda. At LSIS are looking forward to the task ahead and to working with you all as we support you in our collective endeavours.
On behalf of all colleagues at LSIS I wish you all a peaceful Christmas and a successful New Year.
Rob Wye is chief executive of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service, which aims to accelerate the drive for excellence in the learning and skills sector