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Updated 1.10pm: ALP cite contestability as improving competition and quality

“Too many” learners are failing to complete key skills qualifications and almost a quarter of adult learning provision is still found to be inadequate.

Further, evidence was found of Train to Gain provision where little or no teaching of new skills took place.

The Quality Improvement Agency yesterday launched its National Improvement Strategy for the further education system, which it hopes will drive the sector forward and help implement recommendations from the Leitch review. The QIA noted that while the current position had improved, more work needed to be done.

Entitled “Pursuing Excellence: the National Improvement Strategy for the further education system”, it is “the first-ever integrated improvement strategy for further education”, which provides a “coherent” package of programmes designed to help shift FE into self-regulation.

Among many recommendations is one that urges colleges and providers to “ensure that teaching, training and learning are excellent” ““ this will be achieved through QIA commissioned support programmes such as key skills, 14-19 Diploma support and offender learning improvement.

Employers are also urged to “increasingly” become strategic partners of colleges and providers; a new steering group will be set up to include Sector Skills Councils and employer representative organisations in order to drive this agenda forward.

Accordingly, the strategy recommends that: “Each college and provider retains responsibility for its own improvement. Support and intervention may be required in those colleges and providers that are not capable of improving their performance by themselves”.

Further Education Minister Bill Rammell commented on the release of the new strategy: “It will ensure that colleges and providers can play their part – a vital one – in realising Lord Leitch’s vision for skills. That is why we are setting new targets for the successful completion of courses by learners”.

“Colleges and providers must manage their own improvement, and the Strategy will underpin their efforts. They will get practical, tailored support enabling them to respond to employers and learners”.

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Chief Executive of the QIA, Andrew Thomson, said: “We want our further education system to be world leading and one where learners gain the skills and qualifications they need, employers have access to the highest quality training and education, and both can help shape the way learning is delivered”.

“The Improvement Strategy will only succeed if it inspires all working in the further education system to achieve their very best, reflecting on their performance and sharing expertise to help each other improve”.

And in a nod to the question of contestability, Graham Hoyle, Chief Executive of the Association of Learning Providers, commented on the new strategy: “Apprenticeship completions are now running at over 53% and the LSC has said that providers are now ahead of schedule for achieving the 75% completion target. ALP welcomes the QIA’s new strategy as an important contribution towards helping to achieve the target, because while ownership of quality assurance should lie with the provider, most providers will always welcome an outside source of support in their mission to raise standards further”.

He added: “We should also remember, as the Chief Inspector of Adult Learning has said, that a major factor in favour of the funding of further education and training becoming more contestable is that competition constantly acts as a spur to providers to improve the quality of learning and service that they deliver”.

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Vijay Pattni.

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