From education to employment

Continuing the exclusive FE News debate on

Being asked to write an article on how I think the LSC should spend £11 billion was a rather daunting request. Anybody who knows me will tell you that budgeting and high finance are not one of my strengths. In fact, when I told my wife, an accountant with 20 years experience, what I had been asked to do she fell about laughing.

Being someone who likes a challenge however, I”m prepared to give it a go. Who knows, some of you may even be interested in the opinions of a person who works on the “shop floor,” so to speak.

The LSC faces the unenviable task of trying to improve the skills of an incredible number of adults in a multitude of areas. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. In my own experience in Gloucestershire, the LSC has always tried to be as flexible and accommodating as possible in the circumstances.

Working in the local community, you meet many adults who missed out on learning opportunities at school for a variety of reasons. It is important that we should continue to focus attention on adults who can progress even to the point of entering further education. We should strive to improve their personal skills in order to improve their lives, raise their aspirations, increase self-esteem and contribute more to the community. Dealing with families is my specialised area and spending money on helping parents to improve their skills means that they can support and motivate their children to do the same. Community education is an ideal re-introduction to training and is very often the first step back into FE colleges. People feel more comfortable and confident doing this in familiar surroundings; if sufficient funding is not provided, large numbers of adults with potential will be lost. This is why the funding of intergenerational education is so vital; losing this will result in us losing a whole swathe of adults with learning needs.

What about administration and management? Organisations always seem to have a dazzling array of people whose job titles would not look out of place on the Starship Enterprise. They are charming, always look busy and exude an air of authority. The problem is, however hard I try, I can never work out exactly what they do. It’s a bit like looking at the credits at the end of a film and wondering why exactly did Mr Cruise need someone to dress him? So, perhaps I would consider how we might be able to “streamline” this administrative area. I”m also sure that Mr Cruise could dress himself.

It’s also vital that funding reaches the places it was meant for. I think it must be very tempting to creatively reallocate pots of money to different projects that appear to have greater priority or less demanding criteria. I once knew a head teacher (retired) who was particularly adept at doing this. In fact he prided himself on the fact that he was, in his words, “a great money launderer”. Who knows where he is now? Sicily or South America, I suspect.

How could we make sure that funding all these projects enabled adult learners to improve and succeed? At the present time, most of our efforts are focused on the Skills for Life agenda, trying to raise the levels of numeracy and literacy skills in our community. Inevitably, we are expected to reach targets, but this of course can cause problems. From their research, the NRDC have stated that funding for numeracy and literacy programmes should not be driven by targets, but unfortunately, it is. Certain adults returning to education after a considerable break naturally feel a little intimidated and it is our job to put them at their ease. Urging them to take a National Test makes this job a little harder. It also encourages learners to give themselves a label or, worse still, transports them back to their days at school, which for some brings back bad memories.

Therefore, it may be constructive to consider other ways to monitor our successes and ensure that funding is well spent. Longer programmes and more stringent monitoring of progression may be part of the solution, but I admit this is a tricky problem.

I would also consider improving the pay and conditions of our FE tutors.

It always amazes me that a very experienced FE tutor can often earn less than a newly qualified schoolteacher. But then I would say that, wouldn”t I? A bit like the huge army of management consultants brought in to solve the problems of the NHS. After many months of research and millions of pounds, their main recommendation was ““ more management consultants needed. But I feel that if we are to make progress in improving standards, we need more tutors who are valued and motivated to achieve.

Finally, I would do my best to make sure that courses remained free of charge. Having done the ground work in re-engaging adults into education and encouraging them to pursue their ambitions, it may be difficult to persuade them to pay what could be a relatively large sum of money to get there. The rather confusing message seems to be that: “You”ve all done very well ““ now cough up!”

But look on the bright side, it gives those individuals studying for their teaching qualifications more evidence for the inevitable “barriers to learning” essay.

So, there you have it. Fund those areas of FE that really need help and be patient. Above all make sure that the funding continues. I hope I”ve made sense. Though my wife is still laughing.

Robert Randall, Adult Education in Gloucester ““ Winner of the 2006 QIA STAR Award for Outstanding Adult and Community Learning Practitioner.

Related FE News articles:

Paul Mackney, UCU ““ 17/11/06

Alison West, NEC ““ 16/11/06

Claire Donovan, EEF – 15/11/09

Lawrence Miles, IVA – 14/11/09

Graham Hoyle, ALP – 13/11/09

Stephen Williams MP, Liberal Democrats – 13/11/09


Libby James ““ Lifetime Achievement ““ 17/11/06

Maria Rounding – Outstanding Further Education Practitioner – 16/11/06

Patricia Barr – Outstanding Basic Skills Practitioner – 15/11/06

Robert Randall – Outstanding Adult and Community Learning Practitioner – 14/11/06

Steve Murphy – Outstanding Work Based Learning Practitioner – 13/11/06

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