From education to employment

Free ESOL scrapped; adult learner numbers take drastic fall; overall budget rises

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is to invest £11 billion next year in the bid to drive up the skills and qualifications of the nation.

Entitled “Raising Our Game” and set out into four distinct priorities, the LSC has revealed its ambitious plans for the 2007-2008 period.

Setting a target of 90% of 16 to 18 year-olds in education by 2015, the LSC plans to close gaps in provision by inviting competitive tendering, alongside “expanding provision that is good or outstanding [and] building on existing high quality partnerships”.

The report also indicates that 11% of young people are not in education, employment or training.

And as part of their priority in raising the “skills of the nation”, an extra £460 million throughout 2007-2008 will be invested in the recently launched Train to Gain programme; this an increase of 62%. “We will continue to develop it as a holistic service to employers, understanding and helping them to meet their needs from Skills for Life through to the highest levels”.

In reference to priority three and raising “the performance of a world class system”, the report states that: “World class” is a moving target: witness the leaps made by China and India on the world’s economic stage. We want to put our FE system on the world map”.

The LSC intends to introduce a “light touch planning” approach, allowing market forces to drive employer skills training, “aiming for a position where 40% of adult skills funds are channelled through demand-led mechanisms”.

In addition to having committed over £4 billion building projects renewing 50% of the “college estate”, the LSC will introduce the “Framework for Excellence”: “A holistic performance assessment framework for all colleges and providers. This will be a comprehensive basis for self-assessment that will recognise excellence and enable underperformance to be identified”.

A summary of LSC funding shows that since 2001-2002, the total budget has nearly doubled, starting from £6.5 billion to the planned 2007-2008 expenditure of £11.1 billion.

However, of particular importance is the removal of ESOL funding for non-priority groups: “We should not support large-scale demand from those who can pay for their language learning”.

“From 2007/08, ESOL learning will no longer attract automatic fee remission.Free tuition will only be available to priority groups ““ primarily people who are unemployed or receiving income based benefits ““ for whom access toESOL provision is important both for community cohesion and integration and economic purposes”.

With year on year increases in the LSC’s budget, the total number of young people in education and work-based learning schemes has increased, from 2005, by just over 50,000. This is set against a drop in the total number of adults in the same period of 194,220.

Chris Banks, LSC Chairman, said: “We are aiming high, and are making our priorities even more focused, so that we can direct public investment to even greater effect, targeting it at those areas where we know it will make the most difference”.

Vijay Pattni.

Related FE News articles:

Adult Learning Needs “Expanding” ““ 18/10/06

“We Should All Be Proud” ““ 17/10/06

LSC Progress Report ““ 16/10/06

Govt Reaches 2006 Adult Skills Target ““ 12/10/06

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