From education to employment

Annual Report from LSC Released for 2005 – 2006: Steady Progress, but More to Do?

The report on the Learning and Skills Council’s (LSC’s) activities for 2005 ““ 2006 has been released this week, and as could be expected is a mission statement as much as it is a retrospective.

The LSC is the funding body that channels the funding for the FE sector in the UK, which enjoyed a record level of 1.5 million young people in education and training last year according to the report. In the financial year 2005 ““ 2006, ending on the 31st of March 2006, they were responsible for a total budget of some £10.2 billion. Whilst this may appear to be an unimaginably large amount for individuals to comprehend, the various different parts of FE often call for more funding to be directed to them.


The importance of positive thought cannot be overstated, especially given the ongoing mission to drive up awareness of the hard work being done within FE and the options that FE can provide. The LSC report certainly contains much to be happy with, albeit essentially gathering the good news already made available for the rest of the year. The rolling out of Train to Gain is proceeding at the moment, and it is hoped by the LSC that this will help more than 40,000 adults achieve a Level 2 qualification in the first year. This would help in the expressed target of having 1 million working adults achieve Level 2 by 2006; however, as the number stood at 841,000 working adults in Autumn of 2005, the added 40,000 will still leave some leeway to be bridged.

Level 2 achievement has been at the heart of much of the innovation and effort within FE recently. This can be seen in the target set forth above, and further seen in the advances made amongst 19 year olds. The target for autumn 2006 was to increase the number of 19 year olds at this level from 66.8 % in autumn 2004 to 69.8 % in autumn 2006. In fact, this was achieved a year early, with the target reached in autumn 2005.

For 2005, the South East region was the most successful in terms of the percentage of young people (up to 19 years old) to have achieved Level 2, with 75% having achieved this. The North East, the East Midlands, and the Yorkshire and Humber regions were furthest down this particular list, all coming in with 67%. Beyond the regional picture, the national average for 2005 was 70%, a rise of three percentage points from 2004.


A great deal of effort has been devoted to the rebirth of the Apprenticeship, rising phoenix ““ like from the ashes of the disrepair it had fallen into. There has indeed been an increase in the success and the take ““ up of this particular option within education; the target of 175,000 young people starting an Apprenticeship has been beaten already and the completion rate of these programmes is also rising. The target of achieving 75,500 successful Apprenticeship Framework completions by 2007 / 2008 is being approached steadily; however, with the figure resting at 68,000 in 2004 / 2005, a fairly drastic increase will be required to meet this target.

The rise in the number of Apprenticeship Framework completions has been remarkable; the national number of completions for 2002 / 2003 stood at just 43,222, with the 2004 / 2005 figure standing at 68,167. The largest improvement within a particular section of this area, according to the report, was that offered through the National Employer Service (NES). In 2002 / 2003, this provided just 5,517. This had almost tripled by 2004 / 2005 to a total of 14,369.


The overall success rates through all ages and levels make for generally pleasant reading for the FE world as well. In this category, Greater London and the West Midlands showed the greatest overall increase in percentage points, with each reporting a 9% rise in their region between 2002 / 2003 and 2004 / 2005. In local terms, London East was the largest local increase (14%), followed by Gloucestershire (13%) and Northumberland (also 13%). Only one local area reported an overall decrease of 1% between 2002 / 2003 and 2004 / 2005; Sussex. However, the decrease overall from 73% to 72% still places them only two percentage points below the national average of 74%.

This would appear to be largely a positive report. However, it would seem likely that questions will remain regarding the efficiency of oversight, as the figures show both a percentage and numerical rise in administrative costs (from 2.5% of the budget in 2004 / 2005, or £233 million, to 2.7% of the budget in 2005 / 2006, or £281 million). In addition, the report cites levels of satisfaction both amongst learners and employers that have ““ especially the findings of satisfaction amongst employers ““ been challenged elsewhere.

Statements continue to be issued on behalf of business and industry complaining of the skills gaps that remain to serve as pot holes in the road to economic strength and prosperity. If the chassis is not to be knocked completely loose from the bottom of the car of Britain, the Leitch Review of skills for the economy in 2020 will need to consider fundamental reforms once again, building upon the Foster Review to help Britain climb the OECD tables and cling to the current position amongst the economic elite.

Jethro Marsh

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