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LSC Survey Finds Highest Ever Number of Learners “Extremely Satisfied”

According to the National Learner Satisfaction Survey (NLSS) for 2004 / 2005, satisfaction with the learning offered in FE has never been at a higher level.

The survey, which surveyed more than 43,000 participants in FE, work-based learning and adult and community learning, deals with the quality of post 16 teaching from the point of view of the learner. It is a survey conducted through the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the body responsible for allocating the budget for the FE sector. The LSC are delighted with the findings, as they would appear to reveal a remarkable increase in satisfaction.

Improving Satisfaction

The NLSS has found that 9 out of 10 learners are satisfied with the standards of teaching that they have experienced. This marks a significant improvement on previous years. In addition, there has been a rise in the number of learners who said that they feel “extremely” satisfied with the quality of the teaching received. This is at the highest level since the NLSS began, in 2001. Of the 90 % of learners satisfied with learning in FE, 27% of these have stated they are what is deemed “extremely” satisfied, a rise of 4% from the findings of the previous year’s NLSS.

Of the thousands of respondents, 67% are either “very” or “extremely” satisfied with the overall experience of learning in FE. Given the priority placed upon skills for the workforce by so many agencies, it is notable that 79% of the learners surveyed believed that the learning experience had offered them skills useful for their job. This is taken as evidence that the FE sector is filling the skills gap reported by employers, and would seem to paint a better picture of the condition of demand facing provision than that contained in the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) report on FE.

Adult and Community learning has been prominently mentioned in the past year or so after it became clear that the focus for funding would henceforth be for basic skills provision and skills for the workforce and economy. Thus the findings of the survey, that a third of the 93% of satisfied learners in LSC-accredited adult and community learning courses are “extremely” satisfied with the learning they receive, makes salutary reading. However, it would appear to be entirely possible that this will change once the full effect of fees for courses is felt.

Improving Quality”¦

The figures for work based learning are similarly positive; of the 90% deeming themselves satisfied with the quality of teaching, some 23% call themselves “extremely” satisfied. The research as a whole would appear to signal a sea change in satisfaction. In the 10 separate criteria set out by the LSC for evaluating the teachers, all ratings for each criteria rose by a minimum of 3%; seven of them, by 4%, amongst LSC ““ accredited providers.

There has been substantial commitment from Government to the FE sector in recent months, and this report would seem to support the hard work being done in FE. It follows the FE White Paper Raising Skills, entitled “Improving Life Chances” and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown MP’s announcement of the Government’s promise of £500 million worth of capital investment in FE colleges that was made in his 2006 budget. He also committed to an annual budget worth £7 billion to be brought in by 2008.

The NLSS is going to be given a break for next year, as the LSC seek to ensure that the effectiveness and relevance of the data gathering and assessment remains contemporaneous. In the meantime, the FE sector will look to the implementation of LSC pledges to raise the quality of provision through a combination of better planning and management, together with eliminating all unsatisfactory provision by 2008. In this, they will work closely with the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA).

The findings of the NLSS, as with the National Employer Skills Survey (NESS) that assesses employer satisfaction, are certainly very positive. However, given that these findings are for the year before this, when the funding pinch for adult and community learning may start to be felt, indicate that a high water mark may have been reached. The next surveys should make extremely interesting reading.

Jethro Marsh

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