From education to employment

Review on Colleges and FE Part of AoC Conference Week

After months of waiting, the Further Education sector is into the last few days of patience with the Foster Review set to be published this coming Tuesday.

The review was opened last November. Sir Andrew Foster was invited by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, and Chair of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to carry out a review of the future role of FE colleges. This review has been conducted with openness and consultation at its core, with contributions from across the FE sector, and has considered issues raised by the reform agenda for the sector.

Amongst the issues that Sir Andrew will have taken into consideration are the distinctive contribution colleges make to the learning and skills market; their long-term contribution to economic development and social inclusion; and anything else that needs to happen to transform the sector. Sir Andrew is due to speak at the Association of Colleges (AoC) Conference in Birmingham next week at what looks set to be one of the most remarkable conferences for years in the FE sector.


Amongst the issues that Sir Andrew will have taken into consideration is the question of what the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) website terms “leadership and governance”, which could be taken to mean the role played by supervisory bodies in the FE sector. This could well draw attention to the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), which has launched the Agenda for Change and has announced that it is cutting 1,300 jobs from its workforce since the Foster Review began.

One criticism levelled at the LSC by some others in the sector is that it diverts funding from frontline services (as was indicated by the questions at the AoC Conference last June), and certainly these job cuts are a sign that they are moving towards increasing the investment in these same frontline services. Sir Andrew refused to comment on this at the June conference in Stratford upon Avon.

Given that Sir Andrew, in his “ten questions”, also mentions the problem of having a sector that has qualifications not necessarily unified under one roof, it is possible that he will suggest a curriculum reform to bring the standards more effectively together. This also falls under the aegis of considering the experience of the learner within FE, as well as the role to be played by colleges in developing the vocational pathways described in the DfES 14 ““ 19 White Paper.

Whatever the conclusions of the Review, it is certain that some will feel it has gone too far, and others that it has stopped just short. As impossible as it may be to please everyone, the sector will find out on Tuesday just who will rejoice.

Jethro Marsh

Find out about Foster first at FE News

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