From education to employment

FE Image Needs to Improve, Says ALP Chief Executive

Graham Hoyle, the Chief Executive of the Association of Learning Providers (ALP), spoke to FE News about the image of FE and the possibility for change.

The recently published Foster Review spoke of the image problem that Further Education suffers from, and described FE as the “middle child” of the education sector. Mr. Hoyle said that this is less a matter of a negative image and more a “lack of image” of any kind for the Further Education sector. He sees signs of hope in the near future, however. As Jim Hacker’s party advisor might term it in an episode of Yes, Prime Minister, it now becomes a question of the “political will” and the “administrative will.”

A Middle Child Craves Attention

The FE sector has been known as the “Cinderella” sector, and previously this has always seemed to imply the ignored youngest left out of the fancy ball. Mr. Hoyle agrees with the comment from Sir Andrew Foster that it is now more a “middle child”, and was glad to see that the Foster Review, whilst focusing on colleges and their role, did address the broader spectrum of FE.

However it may be described, FE does not achieve the same level of funding or attention from Government that Higher Education and schools do ““ in spite of the massive increase in investment in FE that Education Secretary Ruth Kelly drew attention to in her speech to the Association of Colleges Conference, amounting to an increase of some 50% since 1997. Graham Hoyle sees this prioritizing of the HE sector as continuing, both in Government and in some of the media.

He is encouraged by what he sees as a change in the political wind, however. The political emphasis appears to be shifting to the skills agenda, which FE is best placed to address. Both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have expressed their keen interest in ensuring that the nation’s skills match the requirements of employers now and in the future, a subject upon which the Treasury has commissioned the Leitch Review, due to report back early next year. Mr. Hoyle is hopeful that “at long last, the penny is dropping.”

Better Images and Recognising Success

Expanding upon the theme of the political will, Mr. Hoyle stated that he believes that FE generally suffers from a “lack of image” rather than a poor image. With regards to the media, he recognized that matters are improving there, with FE News at the forefront of the mission to improve the public’s awareness of the good work done within FE.

He welcomes the emergence of Awards Ceremonies for the sector, such as the Learning and Skill Council (LSC) sponsored STAR Awards and the National Apprenticeship Awards, as these are vitally important in improving popular awareness of the value that FE has to offer. The battle for a better public image for FE, it seems, is well and truly joined.

Jethro Marsh

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