From education to employment

College leaders urge more holistic approach to FE

Over 500 union members have said that further education colleges should do more than just “cater to the needs of employers”.

Research revealed by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) last week showed that 11.8% of those surveyed believed colleges should “teach the skills needed by employers”. 12.8% thought colleges should serve local community needs, while a further 11.8% believed they should “teach the skills sought by students”.

However, 535 members (86%) found that colleges should incorporate a mixture of all three.

Dr Mary Bousted, ATL General Secretary, said: “Education is about more than producing skills for industry ““ important though that is. At the moment we appear to have employer-led further education”.

Other respondents noted that colleges should: “Provide the kind of flexible learning environment which cannot be delivered by schools in terms of adult needs, timings which suit people in full-time work, and young adults who have dropped out” [East Anglia]; “Expand the minds of our students to learning generally ““ educating Rita” [West Midlands]; “Teach life skills and general knowledge, instead of the stuff you need to just pass exams” [Yorkshire].

Dr Bousted continued: “A skills agenda, new national diplomas, and sector skills councils which are all employer-led. While we welcome employers” input into identifying skills that business will need, we must make sure they also put something back into the system by investing in the education and training of their staff”.

“At school level the Government has recognised that you can”t raise the quality of education without involving the staff whose job it is to teach. This is a lesson which has still to be learnt in further education”.

Between 23rd October and 13th November 2006, 622 ATL members responded to the survey on FE issues. Other key results found that during the past twelve months, 43% of respondents had to close adult learning/personal community development learning courses, while a further 26% had to close both academic and vocational courses.

There was also a degree of uncertainty to further course closures in the coming year. 4.1% of respondents stated that academic courses were scheduled to be shut down; 12% were planning to close adult learning, while 70.6% (423 members) stated that they “did not know”.

Dr Bousted added: “Once we cut adult provision; once colleges stop offering A levels and once we lose the skills and experience of lecturers and support staff, they will be lost forever. If people are shut out of the system, the notion of continuing to learn and acquire skills will be denied to them forever”.

Vijay Pattni.

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