From education to employment

NEC’s Nicola Aveston Tells FE News The Importance of F

Reflecting on a year of change in Further Education, the National Extension College’s (NEC’s) Nicola Aveston spoke of the impact that the Foster Review, the key review of FE, can have for the future of education and the nation.

Sir Andrew Foster presented his review just last month at the Association of Colleges” (AoC) Conference in Birmingham. In his review, he stated that FE Colleges should focus on the skills for the workforce and skills for life agenda, and that he believed that there would be significant benefits to be gained from a single inspectorate for all FE institutions. And Nicola Aveston welcomed the report, going on to discuss significant incidents from 2005, and what she sees ahead in 2006.

Foster and the Clear Vision

Responding to a question on the significant developments of 2005, Nicola said: “I agree with Alison that Foster is the most significant development.” She went on to say that the review would provide colleges with a “clarity of mission which has previously been lacking.”

Nicola also believes that the LSC Statement of Priorities for 2006 / 2007 is of vital importance. She believes that this “embraces all the Government priorities for the FE sector including Skills Strategy, a new policy for 14-19 year olds, and the LSCs own transformation programme, Agenda for Change,” as well as “the roll-out of Train to Gain, trials of the new quality mark for providers, the independent skills brokerage service for employers.”

Neglect Despite Changing Parlance

Reflecting on the areas that she feels have been somewhat neglected, Nicola identified the Adult Education sector, commenting: “ACL students have been neglected this year, and this is likely to continue.” She says that the £210 million safeguarded by the Government for what they now call “Personal & Community Development Learning” does not allow for any expansion, which will mean “adults will have to pay more for this type of learning.” She fears that this will be a setback that could prove difficult to bounce back from.

She was asked for her “Santa wish list” for FE. Her response was for it to be simpler for colleges in moving their provision to providers. She said that the main hurdle faced is that colleges often face “draconian franchising rules”, and called for a relaxation of the protocol that would permit the provision of high quality training programmes, particularly in the voluntary and community learning sectors.

Changes to Fear

Turning to the year ahead, Nicola sees one area of great concern that has been neglected. She said that the decision to “remove funding for short first steps courses in Skills for Life to prepare people for level 2 study” was a poor decision, as the course is perfect for bringing people back to education after previous bad experiences.

She fears that this move will result in the positive effects of this short “taster” course being rolled back. She said: “Now that such short courses have to form part of larger programmes aimed towards the achievement of qualifications its likely that many people most in need of learning will be put off.”

We would like to thank Nicola for her contribution, and wish everyone at the NEC luck and success in 2006 and beyond.

Jethro Marsh

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