Memorandum from Mr Chris Hughes, Chief
Executive, Learning and Skills Development Agency (FEF 11)
Sets out the priorities established
by the Select Committee report in 1998.
Reviews progress against these priorities.
Analyses the priorities and targets
for the sector under the Learning and Skills Council.
Draws on evidence from our work about
how to address the key challenges of quality improvement and growth.
Identifies the strategic role for
FE colleges within the new arrangements as a key issue that needs
to be addressed.
New arrangements for inspection may
result in lower grades in the short term since colleges are being
judged against new criteriapublic perceptions will need
to be handled carefully to avoid inappropriate blame.
Overall improvement in the quality
of leadership is required.
There is some concern that the extent
of external regulation and review arrangements could discourage
institutions from taking ownership and responsibility for raising
Staff morale is worryingly low in
colleges, especially in general FE colleges.
Colleges could have a key role in
working with micro and small and medium enterprises to achieve
The policy objective of widening
participation needs to be clarified to determine whether it is
targeting those who lack qualifications, who are cash poor or
are from poor areas.
Maintenance for adults remains a
There is a danger that if LSC adopts
a very detailed planning approach, it will not work effectively
and will undermine colleges' capacity for innovation and risk-taking.
A sustained strategic focus on the
demand side is required, and might include consideration as to
whether there are sufficient incentives for growth in the current
The strategic focus for general FE
colleges should be to develop an inclusive and modern approach
to vocational education and training.
1. The 1998 Select Committee enquiry threw
a welcome spotlight on the role of FE colleges. The report highlighted
their significant contribution to the delivery of the government's
agendas of `economic competitiveness and social well-being by
improving the skills of the existing and potential workforce and
by creating opportunities for achievement for all members of the
2. The Select Committee recognised the need
for colleges to have a clear sense of purpose and identified the
following priorities for the period beyond 1998:
Widening participation among both
16-19 year olds and adults;
Meeting the Learning Age target for
2002, of more than doubling the number of adults on Basic Skills
3. These priorities were not an abrupt departure
from existing priorities, but did mark some significant changes
of emphasis. For example, they marked a shift away from undifferentiated
growth towards a focus on widening participation to those groups
of learners who had benefited least from education and training
in the past. This policy shift acknowledged the work of the FEFC's
Widening Participation Enquiry chaired by Helena Kennedy. Equally,
the specific focus on Basic Skills reflected the work underway
by Sir Claus Moser's Working Group on Post-School Basic Skills.
B. PROGRESS SINCE
4. Assessment of the success of colleges
in meeting these new priorities needs to be set within the context
of the sector's development since incorporation. Analysis of the
pattern of provision since 1994-95 indicates a significant change:
The number of students enrolled on
level one programmes more than doubled between 1994-95 and 1999-2000
(from 374,600 enrolments to 883,600);
Levels one and two combined rose
from 40 per cent of total student numbers to 59 per cent;
Level three and above declined from
nearly 40 per cent of total students in 1994-95 to 30.1 per cent
in 1999-2000, with a particularly steep decline in provision at
level four and above.
5. These figures are indicative of the challenges
already embraced by FE colleges. Colleges engage with learners
with high levels of educational disadvantage and deliver a range
of programmes from Basic Skills to undergraduate level study.
In addition, they offer subjects as diverse as painting and decorating,
computer-aided design, bookkeeping, science and aromatherapy,
indicative of responsiveness to new employment opportunities,
and engage with learners from age 14 through to post-retirement.
The complexity and diversity of FE college provision should not
be over-looked in assessing their achievements.
6. Despite the rise in Level one and two
provision since 1994-95, colleges were able to make further increases
in basic skills enrolments following the Select Committee report.
The number of adult students on basic education courses (as a
proxy for Basic Skills courses) increased by 10.8 per cent between
1998-99 and 1999-2000 (from 211,784 to 234,604). These figures
do not include those learners who are developing Basic Skills
as an integral part of a programme in another curriculum area.
7. Widening participation (WP) funding,
introduced in 1998, appears to have resulted only in a minor increase
of around 8600 additional learners attracting WP funding across
all FEFC-funded provision. The proportion of total students attracting
the WP factor in colleges remained stable at 26.9 per cent between
1998-99 and 1999-2000.
8. We believe that the policy objective
of the WP factor requires clarification. It remains unclear whether
the intention is, in the terms used in the LSC's grant letter,
to increase numbers of learners `drawn from disadvantaged backgrounds
and circumstances', or whether it is to attract those with low
levels of educational attainment. Different funding incentives
and levers will be needed to achieve these different policy objectives.
(This point is discussed further in paragraph 44.)
9. Overall learner numbers in FE colleges
fell by 0.3 per cent in the period between 1998-99 and 1999-2000
(from 3,683,697 to 3,673,510). Over the same period, actual courses
delivered increased by 2.7 per cent (from 6,319,885 to 6,495,853).
This increase could be attributed to increased breadth of programmes
(for example for learners following Curriculum 2000 and other
broader programmes), or to an increase in uptake and progression
on short courses. The fall in student numbers is likely to be
a result of the reduction in franchising. An LSDA report indicates
that franchising accounted for almost 20 per cent of student numbers
in the FE sector between 1994-95 and 1996-97.
10. The importance of standards was emphasised
by the Select Committee report and the Standards Fund was established
and referred to in the government's response to the Committee.
Achievement rates overall have increased by 3.9 per cent since
1998, to 76.3 per cent. The achievement gap is closing year-on-year
as worst achieving colleges improve their achievement rates faster
than the best.
However, one in four FE colleges have a learner achievement rate
of 68 per cent or less, with some colleges recording rates at
below 50 per cent. Therefore, while there has been modest progress,
there is still scope for substantial improvements.
11. Slow progress in terms of widening participation
and raising achievement indicates the scale of the challenge.
It is not a reflection of lack of endeavour or responsiveness
by colleges. During this same period, a significant number of
Responded to Curriculum 2000 by introducing
ranges of AS levels, Key Skills qualifications and enrichment
Worked with LEAs to make provision
for 14 and 15 year olds for whom traditional schooling was inappropriate;
Taken on the major role in delivering
financial support for learners, for example, Access Funds, childcare
funds and residential bursaries;
Begun to work collaboratively and
in partnership with other colleges and other providers, rather
than competing as they were encouraged to do previously;
Re-focused away from franchising
(particularly distance franchising) to more local and community
Engaged with the implementation of
the ILA fee discount scheme, ILA pathfinder projects and the national
framework, and the introduction of EMAs.
12. However, this wide range of initiatives
does not amount to a clear strategic role for FE colleges. The
Select Committee report identified that `the FE sector has suffered
somewhat from a lack of leadership and national strategic direction.'
13. The speech by David Blunkett, the then
Secretary of State, to the November 2000 Association of Colleges
identified four objectives for colleges:
High and improving standards for
16-19 year olds;
Providing the skills the economy
needs at craft, technician and equivalent levels;
Widening participation in learning
and enabling adults to acquire the Basic Skills;
A ladder of opportunity to higher
14. David Blunkett's proposal indicates
diversity of mission as a way forwardbuilding on strengths
and creating more distinctive roles. For many general FE colleges
that will mean a strong focus on a modernised vocational education
and training mission, and re-gaining their image as primarily
technical and vocational institutions.
15. Since David Blunkett's speech, the government
has begun the roll out of Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs)
to take forward the regeneration of technical and vocational education.
The CoVE initiative will systematically recognise and promote
high level, specialist vocational provision in colleges. The first
16 pathfinder centres have been announced and the plan is to develop
at least 150 centres by 2003-04, against rigorous quality criteria
which include engagement with industry sectors and employers,
and the capacity to train to high levels of vocational excellence.
16. The creation of the LSC since the last
Select Committee report provides a new context. It offers the
opportunity to look at the post-16 education and training enterprise
as a whole, to achieve greater coherence of provision and a more
rational determination of the roles and contributions of different
providers. We now need to reconsider the role of colleges in the
context of the priorities of the new Learning and Skills sector.
Priorities and the challenge of targets
17. The remit letter from David Blunkett
(the then Secretary of State) to the LSC set out his vision. It
described the importance of learning for a civilised and cohesive
society, with a vital role in promoting active citizenship, strengthening
families and neighbourhoods. A commitment to equal opportunities
ran through the document with a strong emphasis on the need for
the new arrangements to support existing community and economic
regeneration initiatives. This has been translated into the following
mission and vision in the LSC Corporate Plan:
Our mission is to raise participation and attainment
through high-quality education and training which puts learners
Our vision is that, by 2010, young people and
adults in England will have knowledge and productive skills matching
the best in the world.
18. A number of targets have been established
for the new Learning and Skills sector.
around 625,000 more adult learners
in FE in 2001-02 compared with 1997-78, with 65 per cent of these
drawn from disadvantaged backgrounds and circumstances. This target,
set out in the LSC Grant Letter, does not appear in the LSC Corporate
Plan. Its status is therefore unclear. There has been a reduction
in total student numbers of nearly 196,000 since 1997-98, and
the proportion of learners attracting the widening participation
factor has remained broadly stable.
to raise literacy and numeracy skills
of 750,000 adults by 2004.
There has been an increase of nearly 23,000 adults studying on
basic education courses since 1998-99 with 234,604 learners in
1999-2000. The extent to which the 750,000 learners are expected
to be new learners is unclear.
85 per cent of 19 year olds with
a level two qualification by 2004. The current rate of level two
achievement at 19 was 75 per cent in 2000. Currently just under
50 per cent of students achieve level two at 16; the FE contribution
raises this to 75 per cent by age 19, working by definition with
the least able students. Irrespective of any increase in success
rates at 16 the target requires the sector to raise 40 per cent
of the bottom quartile to the same level in three years.
80 per cent of 16-18 year olds to
be in structured learning by 2004. This compares to current levels
of engagement of 75 per cent.
LSC shares responsibility for Government's
target that by 2010 half of those aged 18 to 30 should be able
to access HE. Current levels appear to be around 40-42 per cent,
but figures are not easily available.
52 per cent of adults at level three
by 2004. This compares to current levels of achievement in 2000
of 47 per cent. It is not clear how data will be collected on
In addition, in next year's plan
the LSC will develop:
Baselines and targets for adult
Measures of employer engagement
Baselines and targets for quality
and user satisfaction.
19. In addition to the priorities outlined
above, the government has also indicated a new framework for 14-19
education, with an enhancement of vocational options and increased
involvement of colleges in delivery to 14-16 year olds. A consultation
paper due early in 2002 will set out the government's proposals.
20. Sir John Cassell's report on Modern
Apprenticeships, due imminently, is expected to call for a step-change
in quality and volume of provision, and enhanced engagement of
employers. Given the potential role of colleges in delivering
technical certificates across more vocational sectors, and the
role of CoVEs in relation to higher level provision and employer
involvement, implications for colleges are likely to be significant.
The extension of Modern Apprenticeships will contribute directly
to the level three targets.
21. The targets outlined above relate to
most elements of the Learning and Skills sector's activity. As
yet there is no target for equal opportunities or for community
engagement, but these may emerge through local LSC corporate plans
or performance indicators. The large number of targets already
makes it difficult to identify clear priorities; some are difficult
to measure; they are overlapping (Adult Basic skills and adult
participation); some depend largely on behaviours in other sectors
(schools, higher education); several are shared with other agencies
(eg Adult Basic Skills Strategy Unit, schools).
22. For the new LSC, establishing a new
culture, operating arrangements and relationships, there may be
a case for examining afresh the targets, based on a closer assessment
of its collective capacity and the data that will be accessible.
23. It is within this new LSC context that
we need to consider the future role and priorities for colleges
of FE. Colleges are often referred to as delivering 80 per cent
+ of provision in the new LSC sectorthey will be vital
to the achievement of the new targets. A clear strategic role,
which gives clarity of purpose to the FE sector will be vital
in the context of such wide-ranging objectives.
24. The following sections consider the
key policy priorities indicated by the targets and consider evidence
from our work over recent years about how FE colleges might be
supported to address these.
D. QUALITY IMPROVEMENT
25. Under the new LSC and inspection arrangements,
the institutional structures and roles in relation to quality
assessment and quality improvement have changed. LSC carries out
continuous monitoring via provider review. This should provide
early warning of any problems of performance.
26. Inspection is now carried out through
Ofsted and the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) using the new
Common Inspection Framework. This new framework places greater
emphasis on the experience of the learner and on the impact of
leadership in promoting achievement, than the previous FEFC and
TSC frameworks. Given that new grades will be in relation to the
new framework, caution will be needed in drawing conclusions from
early reports. If, as seems likely, new arrangements result in
lower grades in the short-term, public perceptions will need to
be handled carefully to avoid inappropriate blame.
27. There is no magic bullet that will bring
a step-change in the pace of quality improvement. However, our
understanding about how to improve quality has moved on significantly
since the Select Committee reported. The standards fund, the LSDA
national programme associated with it,
and a range of other LSDA activities,
provide an extensive evidence base for evaluating impact and identifying
the most effective interventions. The following observations draw
on this evidence.
28. Colleges are likely to make gradual
improvements in quality, but significant change is unlikely unless
there is substantial overall improvement in the quality of leadership.
Experience of working with substantial numbers of college leaders
over the last two years shows great variation in leadership abilities.
There is a need to improve:
the quality of those aspiring to
the effectiveness of the selection
process by governors;
in-service training of principles.
29. There is also a need to conduct more
research on the impact of leadership development initiatives and
what qualities make for an effective FE principal. In addition,
it is clear from LSDA work in raising achievement, that if leadership
is to have a more direct impact on student achievement, it is
important to consider the leadership activity of those responsible
for course organisation and delivery.
30. A key feature of successful college
improvement strategies is the ownership by the institution of
quality improvement processes. Failure to own the process can
lead to technical data-driven approaches rather than real change.
There are some concerns being expressed that the extent of external
regulation and review arrangements could discourage institutions
from taking ownership and responsibility for raising standards.
This needs to be kept under review.
Retention and achievement
31. Low levels of student achievement are
associated with certain demographic characteristics. However,
evidence indicates clearly that, at the most, differences in the
characteristics of the student intake can account for only half
of the difference in levels of achievement between the best and
worst achieving colleges. Differences in institutional ethos,
systems, procedures and practices account for the significant
remainder of the achievement gap.
32. Low morale in the workforce is likely
to be a major impediment to the implementation of strategies to
improve student performance. Evidence from our research indicates
a positive correlation between some aspects of staff satisfaction
and student satisfaction. It has already been established that
student satisfaction correlates positively with student retention
and achievement. On average, staff satisfaction is worryingly
low in the FE sector, especially in general FE and tertiary colleges.
33. In a recent LSDA survey,
college staff were asked to rate their level of agreement with
38 statements concerning positive attributes of job roles and
college organisation. There were 17 instances where over half
the 9,500 survey respondents indicated some measure of disagreement,
and a further 15 where over a third did so. The following exemplify
some of the most negative opinions:
The college genuinely cares about
the welfare of its staff (66 per cent disagreed).
Staff feel they have job security
(64 per cent disagreed).
Staff are encouraged to take risks
or try new things without fear of failure (72 per cent disagreed).
There is an opportunity for me to
progress within the organisation (71 per cent disagreed).
Communication is effective in this
college (70 per cent disagreed).
34. Staff satisfaction is likely to be influenced
by a clear sense of institutional purpose, and the evidence from
the LSDA survey shows that levels of staff satisfaction in Beacon
or accredited colleges were substantially better than average
for the survey. Such colleges are more likely to have a clear
strategic role and sense of mission around which staff can be
35. The shift in the pattern of provision
in colleges to a greater proportion of level one and two programmes
(see paragraph four) indicates that colleges have already been
working increasingly with learners who have higher levels of educational
needs. As the new sector aims to reach increasingly disadvantaged
learners, more differentiated approaches will be needed both to
recruit and to meet their requirements effectively.
36. There is evidence from our work
that there are a range of community and voluntary and training
providers particularly skilled at engaging groups of hard-to-reach
learners. The diversity of providers in the LSC-funded sector
is a great strength in achieving growth and will need to be pro-actively
supported. Particular attention must be paid to ensuring that
progression opportunities, particularly between colleges and other
local providers are clear and smooth.
Workforce development and skills for the economy
37. Many of those people that the Learning
and Skills sector needs to target are in employmentboth
in low skilled work or in jobs requiring updating of higher level
skills. Mechanisms to reach these people should be a priority
for the LSC. Our work
indicates that a combination of strategies will be required to
deliver an effective service to business and to reach and encourage
those who lack level two skills to engage in appropriate learning.
Strategies should include:
Supporting micro, small and medium-sized
companies to achieve business success. This requires differential
approaches and effective work with relevant intermediaries. Experience
teaches us that micro companies and SMEs are seeking solutions
to business challenges, rather than directly seeking education
or training solutions. Our research has revealed that FE colleges
appear to attract a particular segment of small firmsmainly
small to medium sized (20-250 employees) manufacturers, firms
in the distribution sector and providers of personal services.
The self-employed and micro firms (less than ten employees) account
for some 90 per cent of firms in England and Wales but they are
the least interested in formal training and the least likely to
view FE colleges as sources of information or services likely
to meet their needs.
Providers should be supported to
take advantage of the opportunities (now available with the end
of Schedule Two), to develop more appropriate, flexible programmes,
and not be constrained unnecessarily by a requirement for qualification
outcomes, although there should be opportunities for employees
to seek accreditation.
There needs to be a clearly articulated
resolution of the funding responsibilities between employers,
individuals and the state. We support current proposals for the
adoption of a level two entitlement (Institute of Public Policy
Research, IPPR), underpinned by a clear policy on the responsibilities
of different parties for funding, and mechanisms to ensure they
38. The impact of the national strategy
for adult Basic Skills has yet to be seen at the provider level.
New curricula are rolling out and the Pathfinder projects are
trialling the key elements of the strategy. Drawing on relevant
we believe that action is needed in the following areas:
The capacity and capability of providers
to deliver the significant increase in provision needs to be addressed.
There is a pressing need to recruit large numbers of staff and
train them to the new FENTO standards.
Inspection of college Basic Skills
provision reveals poor average grades and a general over-estimation
of quality by at least one grade. The national standards for adult
literacy and numeracy have made it possible for providers of Basic
Skills and ESOL to record the achievements of learners in a more
systematic way. Better teacher training and sharing of good practice
in recording achievement is needed before meaningful benchmarks
can be set and comparisons drawn between institutions.
Measures that can capture the retention
of learners in roll on roll off provision need to be agreed. However,
caution is needed in making comparisons with other subject areas.
Management information for Basic
Skills is patchy. It is difficult even to be sure how many learners
are in provision when much Basic Skills is embedded in other programmes.
The baselines for measuring progress nationally and at local LSC
level need to be agreed.
The development of ICT as an integral
part of Basic Skills offer is a key area. There is strong research
evidence of its motivational power.
IT skills are also fast becoming recognised as a basic skill,
and in Wales, they are recognised within their equivalent `essential
skills' framework and strategy.
Practitioners and providers are asking
for links between connected initiatives to be articulated more
clearly. For example, Basic Skills, Key Skills and Citizenship
are being conceived, launched and implemented separately.
The following actions would allow
colleges to engage appropriately with the national strategy:
Development funding for innovation
The creation of regional networks
of centres of excellence for adult literacy and numeracy;
New roles for colleges as supporters/mentors
for new basis skills and ESOL providers in the community or teacher
Preparation for HE of 18-30 year olds
39. Progression to HE is determined by achievement
of level three. Currently 51 per cent of young people achieve
level three by 19.90 per cent of those who achieve two A levels
go on to HE study. The LSC target, as stated earlier is, by 2004,
to increase to 55 per cent the proportion of young people achieving
level three by age 19.
40. FE colleges can make a significant contribution
both through programmes to bring people up to the level three
standard (including full-time, part-time and work-based), and
through direct delivery of HE. HE students in FE are more likely
to be older, part-time and from non-traditional routes and therefore
FE has the potential to support both the agenda for participation
and for changing the socio-economic profile of HE learners.
Funding and Widening Participation
41. Since the Select Committee reported,
additional resources have been allocated through funding the Widening
Participation factor, based on student postcodes, at ten per cent
uplift. As indicated earlier, in the first two years of the full
introduction of WP Factor (1998-99 and 1999-2000), 26.9 per cent
of learners attracted the additional funding.
42. There remains uncertainty whether the
intention of the factor was to recognise additional costs or whether
it was to act as an incentive to colleges to recruit additional
learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. It appears however that
it has had minimal impact as an incentive to increase levels of
recruitment, and recent evidence suggests that it bears little
relationship to the actual costs of recruiting learners from disadvantaged
backgrounds. LSDA's research
has proposed how a realistic rate might be calculated and LSC
has now commissioned a major study along the lines proposed.
43. In a more planned environment where
the emphasis is less on competitive enterprise and more on meeting
diverse learner needs we believe that there is a stronger case
for focusing the funding mechanism more directly on the specific
costs of provision. However, it must be recognised that this will
lead to a more finely tuned, but not necessarily to a simpler
44. We also recommend that the policy objective
needs to be clarified. `Widening participation' or `disadvantage'
remain contested terms and it may be helpful to separate out three
potential emphases. Disadvantage could refer to:
Cash poor studentswhose needs
should be addressed perhaps through EMAs and student support;
Poorly qualified studentswho
may require extra learning support or more intensive teaching;
Students from poor areascolleges
might be given an overall widening participation or disadvantage
rating based on their catchment area.
Fees and fee remission
45. These areas require further work, and
perhaps the development of national arrangements. A very substantial
part of student support is assistance with the direct costs of
provision, delivered through full or partial fee remission.
46. We suggest that consideration be given
to the following:
The need for a clear national policy
on student or employer contributions, which inter alia avoids
competitive undercutting and which is consistently implemented;
Links between the fee regimes in
FE and Adult Community Learning;
Considerations of differential fees
for different levels of study, aligned with developments in HE;
Increasing some fees, and funding
more targeted support for the disadvantaged.
Funding for learners
47. The last Select Committee raised concerns
about the lack of a national entitlement to financial support
for FE learners. This is still the case, with the lack of maintenance
support for over-19s as the most glaring gap. The lack of parity
with HE, which caused concern to the Select Committee, has not
changed. Income contingent loans are not available for FE learners,
although LSDA research shows that they would be welcome by some.
48. Access Funds have been widely welcomed
by practitioners, and are taken up by around six per cent of learners.
The most recent survey, by the Institute of Employment Studies,
is clear that they have been effective in improving retention
rates, but the evidence for an impact on participation is more
49. Education Maintenance Allowances (EMAs)
now cover about a third of the eligible cohort. Evaluation reports
show clearly that they have raised participation rates (by around
six per cent of those eligible) and are especially effective with
boys and the poorest.
There is also LSDA evidence,
that they have raised retention and achievement rates. However,
they only affect 16-18s and do not solve problems with transport
or residence. The funding implications of extending EMAs could
be offset if universal child benefit were stopped and replaced
with means tested EMAs. We are aware that IPPR is developing proposals
in this area.
50. Arrangements for transport remain fragmented
and inequitable with colleges and LEAs applying differing criteria,
rates and limits. This is well documented by LSDA research.
We believe that in the context of more planned arrangements, with
national and regional specialist centres of vocational excellence,
greater co-ordination of transport planning with provision planning
will become increasingly necessary.
has shown high levels of hardship among students already enrolled
in colleges. The key issue for most is transport; for those with
childcare responsibilities the costs of childcare are heavy. The
well-documented existence of hardship experienced by many students
already enrolled in FE makes it difficult to remove barriers to
access in a way which is equitable but avoids `deadweight'.
Planning for growth
52. LSC has a statutory responsibility to
plan provision both at a local and national level. The actual
approach that local LSCs will adopt is not yet clear. Concerns
about the possible approach are two-fold. First, there is a danger
that an annual contracting process that determines detailed numerical
allocations could reduce the appetite of colleges for the innovative
and healthy risk-taking needed to maximise the potential for growth.
The 1998 Select Committee report touched on this issue, stating
`. . . we do not believe that central Government
should attempt to 'run' the FE sector at a detailed level. Further
education is a locally responsive service: the Government's role
should be to put in place a strategic framework that will promote
effective local relationships.'
53. Second, there are concerns that micro
level numerical planning will inevitably be inaccurate for the
Supply and demand are not necessarily
local. Learners travel across LSC boundaries and many (particularly
in large cities) may study where they work rather than where they
live. This will be a particular issue in London where millions
of people travel across LSC boundaries daily.
Many providers make non-local and
national provision. LSC will need mechanisms to co-ordinate with
each other and to recognise the non-local nature of much provision.
The quality of local demand data
is patchy and often unreliable.
Planning appears to be assuming collaboration
between providers, sharing students and provision, but any funding
system where money follows the learner will encourage competition.
Skills shortages cannot be resolved
simply by making provision in the skills areas needed, but must
be accompanied by demand-side strategies to engage learner interest.
There is a danger that a focus on planning will divert attention
away from a broader strategic approach.
54. There is substantial evidence of barriers
to participation, and about who does and does not participate.
Helena Kennedy's phrase "if at first you don't succeed, you
don't succeed" is still relevant. Much less is known about
successful strategies to enable people to overcome barriers and
engage in learning.
55. There is little evidence, in contrast
to past policies which aimed to increase numbers in HE, of pent-up
demand for learning. There has been a positive history of initiatives
at policy and institutional levels to support wider participation,
as well as simply to increase it. However, initiatives to reach
targeted, under-achieving and disengaged groups who are harder
to attract have focused mainly on the supply side. They have had
limited success and have not been part of a national strategy.
There may be limitations to reforms which focus largely on the
supply side. There is a strong case for a sustained strategic
focus on the demand side, with a comprehensive set of actions
based on evidence of what changes learner, community and employer
56. Since too little is known about what
triggers participation among those who do not take part in organised
learning, LSDA has initiated research and policy work on `Attracting
new learners'. The programme of work has started by examining
the messages from research and good practice across the world.
57. The evidence suggests that there is
a need for policy, national strategy and funding arrangements
to ensure that a strong focus on demand gives equal attention
to both the economic aspects, such as workforce development, skills
and employability; and the social inclusion aspects, encouraging
social capital development, citizenship, individual development
and neighbourhood renewal.
58. We believe there is also a vase to re-examine
whether sufficient incentives for growth exist in the current
funding arrangements. The `Demand Led Element' (DLE) in the Further
Educating Funding Council's methodology was a mechanism for growth.
This resulted in growth by individual providers, which lacked
a coherent framework in terms of national social or economic priorities
and target groups. It proved to be flawed in terms of effective
implementation, was misused by some providers and did not necessarily
attract significant numbers of new learners: in some cases offering
funding to complement existing employer-based provision.
59. However, there was some good and innovative
practice enabled by the DLE in partnership arrangements, particularly
at the local community level. A funding mechanism which was more
carefully tailored and specified to meet the needs of social and
economic priority groups as part of a targeted and carefully monitored
growth strategy could provide the right incentives for providers.
60. The analysis above highlights that achievement
of priorities for quality and for targeted growth will require
clarity of purpose and priorities, strong leadership and highly
motivated staff. In addition, the realisation of the full potential
of the range of providers in the new LSC sector will require institutions
with clarity about their own mission and contribution and the
confidence to collaborate to achieve common objectives.
61. The 1998 Select Committee report identified
the need for a clear strategic role and framework for FE colleges.
We believe that this is particularly the case in the new LSC context.
Colleges represent the major resource within the LSC sector and
the strategic deployment of this resource must be a priority.
62. We believe that the strategic focus
for general FE colleges should be to develop an inclusive and
modern approach to vocational education and training. Key features
Engagement with employers and the
Commitment to business competitiveness
and community renewal and regenerationfrom a strong vocational
platform colleges can arguably make a stronger contribution to
social and community provision;
Capacity to develop individuals'
skills through to high levels of technical and vocational excellencethe
capacity to draw people into learning and then motivate them to
develop their skills to high levels will be critical.
63. We believe that these features can build
the status of vocational and technical provision, motivate learners
and build the skills needed to achieve economic and social regeneration.
For colleges we suggest that greater clarity of primary purpose
need not imply a narrowing of provision, neither across the network
of colleges not within individual institutions. It will, however,
provide the basis for making decisions about how to develop provision
in relation to other providers. The drive for quality, improving
access, and growth will better be tackled by a strong sense of
priorities at institutional level, within the context of a more
clearly articulated strategic role.
Learning and Skills Development Agency
1 Government's response to the Select Committee report,
paragraph six. Back
FEFC Statistical First Release published in July 2001. Figures
only include FEFC funded provision, do not include HEFCE numbers. Back
For better or worse: the influence of FE franchising on learning,
FEDA, 2000. Back
FEFC Performance indicators publications-eg Table four on pages
32-33 of the 1998-99 volume, published Dec 2000. Back
Published as Colleges for excellence and innovation, DfES, November
Searching for excellence in FE colleges, LSDA, 2001, identified
the factors which characterise high quality vocational provision. Back
Unless stated otherwise these appear in the LSC Corporate Plan. Back
The grant letter states: by 2002, 500,000 adults taking part
in provision to improve their literacy and numeracy and by 2004
the number of adults with weak literacy or numeracy skills reduced
by 750,000. This disaggregated target has not been published elsewhere. Back
Raising Quality and Achievement programme. Back
For example, the Principals' Programme, Senior Leadership Programme,
Management Development Programme. Back
Listening to Staff, LSDA, October 2001. Back
For example, Back on Track: Successful learning provision for
disaffected young people, LSDA/DfES, 2000; Evaluation of non-schedule
two projects, LSDA/NIACE, 2000. Back
Relevant LSDA (and FEDA) research and publications include: Promoting
learning in small and medium-sized enterprises, 1998; Supporting
local small businesses, 1999; Developing responsiveness in VET,
2000; Learning in the workplace, 2001; Developing leading edge
staff in colleges, 2001; and an ADAPT project (1998-2000) which
considered relationships between FE and local SMEs. Back
LSDA work in this area includes the Basic Skills Quality Initiative,
regional Basic Skills practitioner networks and projects to evaluate
of Basic Skills and ESOL in local communities, and to identify
non-accredited outcomes in Basic Skills and ESOL. Back
Mellor, H; Institute of Education. Back
The Costs of Disadvantage, LSDA, 2001. Back
These issues are explored in the recent LSDA publication Supporting
Adult Learners-the Need for a New Approach, LSDA, 2001. Back
Educational Maintenance Allowances-the impact on further education,
LSDA, 2000. Back
Student transport-Unfair or just Unequal, LSDA, 2000. Back
For example, The Hardship of Learning by Claire Callender, South
Bank University, 1998. Back
FE Select Committee Report, paragraph 142. Back
Attracting new Learners: a literature review, IES/LSDA June 2001.
In addition a report of an international seminar on successful
strategies, held in June 2001 will be published in December 2001. Back