From education to employment

Welsh Colleges to Move Forward from Successful Year Into Future

Last week saw the Association of Further Education Colleges in Wales (fforwm) Annual Conference in Llandudno, between the 8th and 9th of June.

Speaking before the “Furthering Education for Wales” event, fforwm’s Chief Executive Dr. John Graystone said: “¦The fforwm Annual Conference 2006″¦ is a key opportunity to celebrate college successes, share best practice and catch up with the numerous recent developments in FE.”

Dr. Graystone continued, saying: “I”m delighted that fforwm’s Annual Conference has attracted such a strong field of speakers. At such a critical time, in the midst of a period of huge reform in the post-16 education, lifelong learning and skills sector, it will be particularly timely to hear from both the Minister for Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, Jane Davidson AM, and the head of the newly created Department for Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, Steve Marshall.” Also on the speaking bill at the conference was the author of “The Outstanding College”, Sir Bernard Connell.

Moving Forward

Three key themes were laid out at the conference- furthering the community, furthering the learner and furthering the economy- with a wide range of other significant and prominent issues also being considered. Dr. Graystone said: “How we move forward and make sure that we are continually furthering education and training for Wales in the midst of so many changes and uncertainties is critical to the future of Wales’s learners, communities and the economy”¦.”

Amongst the issues discussed was the changing landscape of 14-19 education and training. Also up for discussion were school-college collaboration and benchmarking for further education and work-based learning. Raising quality and creating an outstanding college, raising the esteem of vocational skills and reducing bureaucracy completed the schedule for the two-day conference.

Future Concerns

College institutions were put under scrutiny with the question of whether their function is purely to deliver skills or whether they should be serving a wider purpose, whilst there was also consideration given to the uncertainty of the political agenda, future funding of the post-16 education and training sector and also to the potential for wide scale reform and reconfiguration.

Dr. Graystone said “We are faced with a future which includes an ageing workforce, greater divergences in policy between Wales and England as a result of devolution, new funding arrangements for the post-16 sector which have brought about a freeze in funding for FE colleges, and new government structures in education, lifelong learning and skills”¦Welsh Assembly Government is driving a major reform agenda and colleges are very keen to play a major part in shaping and discussing the future. We must ensure that these discussions focus on the interest of learners, and that we strive to raise standards in a cost effective way. There is no purpose in change for the sake of change.”

Joel Goldman

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