From education to employment

LSC local councils to be abolished; colleges to be awarded degree powers

The government yesterday published the Further Education and Training Bill, designed to give colleges degree-awarding powers while abolishing local LSC councils, among other provisions.

Following the official state opening of Parliament last week, the proposed FE Bill was mentioned in the Queen’s Speech and was finally unveiled yesterday. Provisions in the Bill include the “abolition of local councils”, citing: “The local learning and skills councils established under section 19 of LSA 2000 are abolished”.

Further, the Learning and Skills Council will have greater powers of intervention in failing colleges, “if the Learning and Skills Council”¦is satisfied”¦that the institution is performing significantly less well than it might in all the circumstances reasonably be expected to perform, or is failing or likely to fail to give an acceptable standard of education or training”.

Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Alan Johnson, said: “The Bill contains a range of measures designed to reform the Further Education sector and help enable the system to achieve its full potential as the powerhouse of economic growth and social mobility”.

“Our Further Education system is impressive. We have superb colleges and training providers and success rates are rising fast. Since 1997, the number of post-16 learners has grown from 4 million to 6 million. We have increased investment in colleges by 48% between 1997 and 2006. But more needs to be done to improve the skills of young people and adults, one of the biggest strategic challenges facing our country. I want all young people to be in education and training, for adults to continue obtaining the necessary skills to meet the needs of a fast moving economy and for all employers to see training as an essential investment in their workforces”.

“The important Further Education and Training Bill the Government is introducing in Parliament today sets out reforms to ensure providers become even more responsive to the needs of employers. But employers must continue to work closely with Government if we are to meet the challenges Lord Leitch will set out in his Review of skills shortly”.

However, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary, Sarah Teather MP, said: “The Government has shied away from tackling the real problems holding back further education. This bill falls far short of the fundamental reform that our colleges desperately need. Allowing colleges to award degrees will make little difference unless the work of universities and colleges is better co-ordinated. For example, allowing students to move between institutions”.

“There must be greater flexibility to allow free and fair co-operation between schools and colleges teaching 14 to 19 year olds. Unless the Government adequately addresses the gap in funding between schools and colleges, further education students will not receive the quality of education they deserve”.

Industry leaders yesterday expressed their comments on the Bill. Chris Banks, Chair of the LSC, said: “The LSC welcomes the new Bill which puts into effect the provisions of the White Paper, and reflects the rapidly changing world in which the LSC operates. There has been real progress in FE and this Bill demonstrates the Government’s commitment to the sector by putting it firmly centre stage in building the skills of the nation. It will also enable the LSC to reinforce its role as a strategic partner and “market maker”, recognising success while driving out poor quality, to the benefit of employers, individuals, communities and the economy”.

John Brennan, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC) noted: “We believe the Bill reflects the Government’s and our own aspiration to place Further Education at the very heart of this nation’s economic and social future. The AOC therefore welcomes the Government’s resolve to offer colleges new powers to create and validate Foundation Degrees and to free-up LSC structures and operations so that decision-making is closer to the front-line”.

Graham Hoyle, Chief Executive Association of Learning Providers (ALP) added: “We are pleased to see the governments commitment to contestability reaffirmed and technical barriers tackled, to enable strong voluntary partnerships between different types of quality providers to be effectively developed”.

And Ioan Morgan, Chair of 157 Group said: “The 157 Group of colleges welcomes and supports the thrust of the FE Bill. Trusting able colleges to do more for themselves is pivotal to enable self regulating colleges to deliver on skills, community cohesion and economic development. In the spirit of the Foster report, the FE system is now further enabled to support business and industry and to allow individuals to progress from entry to degree level. The Bill also positions the FE system to respond effectively to the challenges of the forthcoming Leitch report”.

To view the Bill, click here.

Vijay Pattni.

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