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College Body Reacts to Committee report on Bureaucracy in Learning and Skills Sector

The Association of Colleges (AoC), the body representing hundreds of Further Education Colleges across the country, has reacted to the findings of a committee on bureaucracy.

The FE sector represents a huge part of Education and Skills in Britain. Each year, more than four million people are trained at local colleges with some 120,000 14 ““ 16 year olds choosing colleges to study vocational qualifications. Approximately 727,000 16-18 year olds choose to study in colleges, compared with only 439,000 in schools. The AoC, in reacting to this report from the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) have praised their determination that bureaucratic oversight can be a burden on FE, but have taken issue with some findings on quality.

The Quality of Provision?

In a 2003 – 2004 independent Learning and Skills Council (LSC) survey it was determined that 90% of learners were either fairly satisfied, very satisfied or extremely satisfied with the quality of teaching in college, which is amongst the highest levels of satisfaction expressed in the public sector.

As such, whilst the AoC supports the comments from the PAC Chairman Edward Leigh on more funding being channeled straight into frontline provision, they take issue with figures cited for failing college managements and colleges. The report from PAC claims that some 35 colleges, 11% of colleges, are performing unsatisfactorily. The AoC recognize that failing colleges are harmful to the general perception of FE, but hit back at the figures with their own, drawn from the Ofsted annual report for 2004 / 2005, showing that just 4% of colleges are deemed to be inadequate.

Dr. Brennan Tackles Overcomplicated Delivery Mechanisms

Dr. Brennan, who is the Chief Executive of the AoC, reacted to the report by stating that the methods used for funding delivery remain overly complicated and obstructive. He said: “There is clear evidence that the current systems used to plan, fund and regulate our colleges are complicated, costly and ineffective. Over the past ten years, the college sector has proved its ability to manage its own affairs and to adapt to meet changing circumstances and demanding government targets. We welcome all efforts to simplify the often confusing landscape in the learning and skills sector.”

He went on to call for a wider recognition of FE achievements, saying: “We would welcome more emphasis ““ from the PAC and from Government – on the 96% of colleges judged as outstanding, good or satisfactory by Ofsted. We look forward to ongoing discussions as to how the many success stories of the sector can be freed from the dead weight of bureaucracy.”

Many individuals across the Further Education sector have questions regarding the funding levels for different areas and the disposition of funds. As important as oversight is, it is unlikely that the publication of this PAC report will resolve these bones of contention anytime soon.

Jethro Marsh

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