From education to employment

“Learner Centred” White Paper the Right Way Forward says Students” Union

The National Union of Students (NUS) welcomed the publication of the new White Paper on Further Education on the eve of their annual conference in Blackpool.

The report, which is the plan of action that the Government has set out to meet the recommendations of the Foster Review of FE published last autumn, has seen the media flock to cover the FE sector in a rare display of massed interest. Different organisations, from sector leaders to unions, have expressed varying levels of support for the proposals based upon their own position.

Learner and Student Focussed?

The paper has called for a more responsive and “learner focussed” approach to education and has highlighted the FE sector as the best and most effective engine for moving the skills agenda forward. It has also called for greater employer involvement in the development of FE, and can therefore be called “employer focussed” as well. This is expected to be supported and expanded upon by the Leitch Review, commissioned by the Treasury, which seeks to determine the skills that will be required in 2020 for the British workforce to remain competitive in the international arena.

The paper has called for colleges to permit students to have a greater say in the decisions that directly impact on their education experience and their college. The NUS believe that this will require a greater degree of participation from students, in areas such as consultations concerning course content and involvement on national policy debates. The report also calls for colleges to have a minimum of two learner representatives on their board.

NUS response

The Vice President Further Education for the NUS, Ellie Russell, said: “We welcome the White Paper and its focus on the learner. As a former Further Education student, I know the frustrations of students who feel they just arent listened to by their colleges. By increasing involvement at every level, learners will finally feel that their opinions matter and are being taken on board. Increased representation is not only great news for students but also for colleges too, in terms of attracting and retaining students and in improving every aspect of college life.

“Allowing students to have their say on decisions affecting their college environment will encourage greater citizenship and interest in democracy and voting in a wider sense,” she continued. “We are delighted that colleges will now be compelled to have at least two learner reps on their boards. It is encouraging that the White Paper also details support for these students so they can make the most of the opportunity to sit on college boards. Now these recommendations need to be implemented across the board and we look forward to working with the Government in order to do this.”

In other NUS related news, Sir Andrew Foster is set to be nominated as an Honorary Vice President of the NUS for his work in promoting the learner’s position within FE.

Jethro Marsh

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