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Read Alison West’s Memories and Hopes for FE Exclusively at

After the dust has settled on a year’s events in FE, it is time to reflect on the lessons learned and the road ahead for the sector. We at FE News are delighted that Alison West, Chief Executive of the National Extension College (NEC), was willing to offer our readers an insight into her thoughts on 2005 and 2006.


Question: “What was the most significant development for FE in your opinion in 2005?”

Alison West: “Definitely the Foster Review but also the decision by the government to concentrate on a very narrow skills entitlement, changing the remit of FE before Foster even reported.”

Question: “What was the area of FE that you feel has been neglected this year?”

Alison West: “Part-time students and ACL students. Many people cannot take a full Level 2 package at one time and the government will not accept that “returners” to learning need time to get back into the system and that they cannot jump straight to accreditation.”

Question: “What has been your proudest moment of the year?”

Alison West: “Finally getting approved supplier status from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC)! Hard to do for a national organisation that does not fit the regional or local structure of the LSC!”

Question: “What was the funniest memory from FE ““ work or otherwise – from this year?”

Alison West: “Listening to Sir George Sweeney at an NEC seminar on current issues in FE ““ his talk included various references to Harry Potter books and while amusing also showed just how idealistic and committed even hard-boiled Principals still are.”


Question: “If you had to choose three things for FE’s Santa to bring for 2006, what would they be?”

Alison West: “All FE colleges to offer distance and blended learning options as a matter of course. For those unable to attend regularly on a face-to-face basis they miss out on a lot of opportunities. It would also expand the range of subjects and levels that your local FE college could offer.

“A second Santa wish would be that colleges would be more willing to take external candidates to sit exams. It does not cost the college anything and it would widen opportunity greatly. A third Santa wish would be for the government to accept a more staged approach to raising skills, and in particular to extend the time given to students to complete a full Level 2.”

Question: “What is the agency / organisation other than your own that you expect to be most heavily involved in furthering FE in 2006?”

Alison West: “The Qualification and Curriculum Agency (QCA) and the Quality Insurance Agency (QIA) will have a yet-to-be-assessed impact throughout the year. If the whole quality agenda really takes off, there could be a big improvement in the FE student experience.”

Question: “What changes do you fear will affect FE negatively in the coming year?”

Alison West: “The loss of a wider remit to attract new learners will limit FE to a factory system, servicing employers who continue to show no sign whatsoever of a willingness to put their hands in their pockets to pay for training their own workers. Employers will expect to call the tune, perhaps through the Sector Skills Councils, but will not contribute.”

Question: “Which of next year’s conferences do you think will be the most exciting / interesting and why?”

Alison West: “The one addressed by Gordon Brown, whatever that one is.”

All of us at FE News would like to thank Alison West for her kind efforts, time and contribution.

Jethro Marsh

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