From education to employment

FE News exclusive with Bill Rammell MP

In Further Education listening to learners is vital to improving services, ensuring they are built around people’s needs and helping them acquire the skills and abilities that will help them succeed in life and at work.

We are calling for the FE sector’s views in a consultation on personalisation in post-16 provision. This follows the Gilbert Review set up in March considering how personalising learning in schools can be developed.

This Government set out an ambitious personalisation agenda in the sweeping reforms in the FE White Paper this year. It is part of the broader public reforms creating more responsive public services.

The idea is simple enough: we must put citizens at the centre of the service, enabling them to influence its design and delivery in a way that ensures the service will meet their training needs.

The White Paper outlined a robust approach towards raising the bar on standards and driving a culture of continuous improvement across the sector. Ensuring that learners have a real say in all levels of the system locally, regionally and nationally, will improve standards for individuals and employers wherever and however they want to train.

The FE system has a strong history of tailoring provision to meet the needs of a diverse range of learners but the variation in success rates for some learners and groups of learners, shows that some are benefiting more than others. Our challenge is to increase successful outcomes for all learners, and especially for the most disadvantaged, those who currently fail to thrive and achieve in FE.

Colleges and providers across FE help 6 million learners every year. These people deserve a learning experience that recognises their needs, supports them in their choices, helps them to fulfil their potential and empowers them to shape their learning environments. We must now make excellent practice the norm across the sector.

To support this agenda I am also launching a National Learner Panel for Further Education. The panel is a first in FE and is an opportunity for me to enter into a dialogue with real learners and hear first hand what is working and what could work better.

In setting up the panel we have aimed to capture some of the incredible diversity of FE with learners from age 16 to 75 from different backgrounds studying a wide range of subjects in very different settings. Each of the panel members has a different story to tell and a different perspective to offer.

Yvonne Rundle, an adult learner from Lewisham, said to me that: “The panel will provide an opportunity to put questions and suggestions directly to the people who can make changes. I feel privileged to be part of this initiative which will make a difference to many people whatever their background”.

The launch of the National Learner Panel complements the personalisation consultation. The consultation document Personalising Further Education: Developing a Vision” draws on views and ideas emerging on how to develop personalisation. It looks at successful approaches that can be more widely applied and what more needs to be done if we are to reap the full benefits of personalising learning.

Details of the document and how to take part in the consultation can be accessed through the website. I encourage you to get involved and make your views heard.

From my long association with NUS and student unions I know first-hand the commitment, enthusiasm and energy of learners. They want to change things for the better, not just for themselves but for future learners entering the system.

The learners” voice must be heard at all levels of the system from the National Learner Panel to individual colleges and providers, who in their turn must respond to the views of learners in all aspects of their experience and activity.

Learners have a lot to say that is important and valuable, we must get better at listening and in supporting them to make their voices heard more effectively.

Bill Rammell, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education.

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