From education to employment

Nick Pearce Confronts Questions of Funding and the Future

The Director of the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) has worked in the area of public policy for a number of years in a number of different capacities. At the annual Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) conference, it was clear that Nick Pearce had some very clear views on the contemporary political and social climate’s demands upon the Further Education sector.

Telling the FE Story

As readers will be able to tell from Mr. Pearce’s statements on the subject, the campaign for social justice is close to his heart. And he believes that the FE sector has a vital part to play in telling the story more effectively. And only through better communication, he believes, can social justice be achieved and the FE sector’s voice be fairly heard.

However, Mr. Pearce urges the sector as a whole to “get out of the victim mentality” that he sees as damaging to both moving towards social justice and hearing the voice of FE. He says he regularly reads articles from the FE sector complaining that they do not get sufficient attention, and says that rather than this, they would be better served to adopt a positive approach towards promotion and development, discarding their “critical approach”.

Where, Oh Where Should We Be?

The recent re ““ organisation of the government’s ministry responsible for education came in for criticism as well. The change occurred when the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) were created amidst that round of re ““ shuffles from the now ““ defunct Department of Education and Skills (DES). And Mr. Pearce questioned the wisdom of this in reference to the rightful place that the FE sector should occupy, claiming that he would “never have split “Employment”(the previous department).

Because of the unique and diverse nature of the FE sector, it could be difficult to place FE within one single government department. Whilst it is education and will always remain so, the impact that having the correct skills and training will have on the nation’s economy, culture, society and prosperity is plain to see. Mr. Pearce pointed out that the Treasury has a special interest in FE, as is shown by the Leitch Review that has been commissioned to determine the skills that will be needed by the workforce of Britain in 2020.

Demographics and Eight Years

The so ““ called “aging society” problem that is said to afflicting Britain is well known, as it is throughout the developed world. And whilst Britain dos have the same concerns in this matter as any other post ““ industrial state, Nick Pearce sounded a note of cautious optimism when he addressed this. “Britain,” he said, “compares well demographically in terms of aging society pressures on society”. He pointed out that other nations, such as Japan and France, have a much more immediate concern in this regard, but admits that this is an area that will need attention.

In a society that thrives on criticising those that hold office, much blame for perceived wrongs has been heaped at the Government’s door. This was clear in th details of the election results, regardless of the historic third term for a Labour Government and the positive hue that can be superimposed by the cadre of spin doctors. Mr. Pearce finds fault with the FE sector for being far too quick to criticise and recalls that, when he worked for the DES for a year he witnessed a 12% rise in funding and still received complaints.

Essentially, Mr. Pearce finds much to praise within the FE sector, and much hope for the future as well. However, he warns that the perceived “esteem problem” will never go away unless the sector “focuses on the things [they] should really complain about.”

Jethro Marsh

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