Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Ruth Silver, Principal, Lewisham College (FEF 12)

BACKGROUND

  The Clerk to the Education Select Committee asked for an audit of the progress on the recommendations of the 1998 Enquiry into Further Education.

  This enquiry was the first time that Further Education was looked at properly and, more importantly, understood.

  The outcome was that fitting policy directions were set, growth in student participation and support was shaped and Further Education has changed as a result.

  This document lists the recommendations and comments on progress on delivery—in as far as it is known—and indicates outstanding issues, in as far as they are known.

COMMENT

  A quick scan of the progress will indicate that 1998 was centuries ago and overall, in the world of Further Education, much has happened.

  The systemic changes stemming from the report are in the early stages of rooting themselves and this goes some way to explaining the confusion in the sector. There are issues of definition as indicated, funding alterations were continuous: some were even retrospective and all occurred in the knowledge that the paradigmatic shift from FEFC to LSC would bring with it a new funding methodology.

  In addition to systematic and structural changes there have been many curriculum-linked developments. The list of initiatives will serve to illustrate what the sector has been handling:

    —  Curriculum 2000

    —  EMAs

    —  ILAs

    —  Foundation Degrees

    —  Basic Skills

    —  Change in inspection regimes

    —  Centres of Vocational Excellence

    —  International Students

    —  Standards Fund

    —  Beaconhood

    —  Widening Participation

    —  ILT developments

    —  UFI—learndirect

  The sector responded to all of these with varying success. Moreover, these were managed whilst there was (a) completion of funding convergence and (b) an emerging and ever increasing "audit factory" regime implemented.

  The Learning? The model of "money in—success out" leads to disappointment. Humanity is more complex, changes in humanity's learning are even more complex, particularly when measures of achievement in use do not fit the sector well.

  The Risk? Widening participation to further failure.

THE NEXT FOUR YEARS—A SUGGESTED AGENDA

  Tackle the tensions between:

1PARSIMONIOUS CORE FUNDING—no uplift for inflation representing a 3 per cent cut PROMISCUOUS PURSES—which are temporary
2TRUST—in professionals AUDIT OF PROCEDURES—continuous
3DISCRETION—in order to be responsive CONTROL—in pursuit of probity
4EXCELLENCE OF INSTITUTIONS PARTNERSHIP—often lowest common denominator outcomes
5OUTCOMES OF STUDENTS OUTLETS—to their future
6POLICING THE COLLEGES PRAISING THE COLLEGES
7DELIVERY OF PROVISION DEVELOPMENT OF PROVISION TO 21st CENTURY STUDENTS
8ACHIEVEMENT OF INSTITUTIONS ATTAINMENT OF STUDENTS
9SECTOR LEARNING—we have a succession crisis! STUDENTS' LEARNING
10GENERATIVE COLLEGES—doing what their community needs CONTROLLED COLLEGES—following regional agendas


  I would be very happy to expand on these rather synoptic comments.

Ruth Silver

October 2001


 
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Prepared 29 November 2001