From education to employment

AoC Conference brings together Principals from across UK

Colleges have expressed their concern over the government’s Train to Gain initiative after branding it a “short-term fix”.

Speaking at the Association of College’s (AoC) annual conference in Birmingham yesterday morning, Sally Dicketts, Principal of Oxford and Cherwell College, said: “Train to Gain is like a lot of government initiatives. It sounds great to begin with but once people start operating it changes. If you want a highly skilled workforce you cannot just accredit people”.

“Colleges are about enabling people to learn throughout their lives ““ Train to Gain is a short-term fix; it is not a long-term solution”.

Chris Morecroft, Principal of Worcester College of Technology, added: “Someone must look into the effectiveness of the brokerage service in Train to Gain. Is the bureaucracy worth it? There needs to be a clear evaluation of Train to Gain and it needs to be rigorous”.

Nick Lewis, Principal of Broxtowe College in Nottingham, spoke on the confounding numbers of quangos and difficulties faced by colleges: “We must start with examples that work and we have got to get on the employer’s agenda. We need to get rid of the quangos that inhibit our ability to get close and partner the employers. I praise the foundation degree issue. There is the sheer hassle of dealing with the structures that inhibit us ““ qualifications are inhibiting us also. The qualifications that we offer are not geared properly for employers”.

Sally continued: “It is about what is appropriate for the community. It is about partnerships, even before the employer knows they need training. I don”t think we should give employers free training ““ payment needs to mirror the organisation you”re working with”.

On the issue of quality, Maggie Scott, Director of Learning and Quality at the AoC said: “Overall, only 3% of colleges are deemed by Ofsted to be below par. There has been a huge rise in inspections over the last few years. We are fully confident that we have a sector that can deliver”.

“The way that colleges are measured is in success rates. The situation is that we need a level playing field. We shouldn”t be compared equally to schools. The rigour however, is good for the sector; to have robust measures. We have a triangulation of ways in which we are scrutinised. We just however, want the same to happen to schools and be more transparent. It may well be that there are quality issues in schools”.

Neil Hopkins, Principal at Peter Symonds College, added: “I don”t think the FE sector has anything to worry about in terms of quality for colleges. The quality of colleges is high ““ but perhaps, when one area or component in a college may be under-performing, this has been used in the past as a claim that they are failing”.

Vijay Pattni.

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