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157 Group publishes policy paper to free up adult qualifications system

The 157 Group of 27 large and regionally influential colleges has published a policy paper as part of calls to free up the qualifications system for adult learners.

Called Adult further education – the unfinished revolution, the policy paper sets out proposals aimed to enable greater choice and flexibility.

“This policy paper is seen as our most challenging to date and has been published to influence the government’s thinking around access to education and skills training in its FE loans consultation, which will be due out shortly,” said 157 Group executive director Lynne Sedgmore CBE.

“It is important to reinforce that we are not calling for additional funding to support the adult entitlement and that we fully support the government’s ambition for change in its reforms. We simply ask for greater flexibilities in order to provide individuals with greater choice and we believe this sits well within the coalition government’s drive for freedom, fairness and responsibility.”

According to 157 Group, its paper aligns closely to five core principles enshrined in the government’s recently published Open Public Services White Paper: Choice, decentralisation, diversity, fairness and accountability.

Frank McLoughlin CBE, chair of the 157 Group and principal of City and Islington College, said: “Adult further education learners should be able to make their own choices, and in order to do this, colleges must be given the rights to manage fee policies, as higher education institutions do.

“We fully support the coalition government’s five principles, as outlined in its recent white paper, and hope that this policy direction will lead to a fairer entitlement for adults in further education colleges.”

Professor Alison Wolf, who recently published her independent review of 14 to 19 vocational education for the Department for Education, commented: “Since the new government, there have been steps taken to create freedoms and flexibilities for the further education sector, but there is still much work to be done if we are to place individuals and employers centre stage. We need to do more to place real purchasing power in students’ hands.”

Chris Smith

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