the important distinction between sector and system and his references to role and organisational confusion among the main bodies in the system.
Researchers from TLRP projects on FE would welcome opportunities to offer continuing insights, perhaps through the Implementation Unit proposed by the review. Research in the TLRP offers robust and well-warranted evidence about diverse aspects of policy, teaching and learning in the FE sector and we believe that representation from the TLRP in the new Unit would be useful.
Policy and governance
The Policy and Inclusion project highlights strongly the problems of role confusion within the learning and skills sector, in particular between the DfES and the LSC and between the roles of the various organisations involved in quality assurance and quality improvement. 5
The three TLRP projects on further education show that staff feel immensely pressurised by the impact of planning, funding, targets, inspection and the endless waves of initiatives.6 These external pressures divert the energies of individuals and institutions, away from their core task of improving the quality of teaching and learning. The Transforming Learning Cultures project suggests that Foster’s discussion of workforce development, quality assurance and governance as a backdrop for teaching and learning overlooks the finding that these factors are deeply imbued in everyday teaching and learning activities and have a profound effect on teachers’ attempts to change their practice for the better.
The Policy and Inclusion project has found widespread support for better local planning of post-16 provision within a more coherent 14+ system. However, this effort at greater co-ordination for the benefit of ‘users’ may be undermined by tensions within government policies promoting institutional collaboration on the one hand and competition on the other. Inequalities in funding for different types of learners need to be redressed, to ensure fairness in the system as well as ‘value for money’. 7
5 The FE White Paper (DfES, 2006) does acknowledge concerns about the complexity of the infrastructure in the learning and skills sector and does seek to clarify that the LSC should “focus on strategic commissioning…[and] work with Local Authorities on 14 – 19 strategies.” The LSC Chair is required to advise on a new accountability structure down to local level which will be regularly reviewed.
6 The FE White Paper (DfES, 2006) seems mindful of this in two ways. First, as with Foster, it recognises that FE has faced much change over recent years and reiterates that the intention is to build on the strengths of FE. Second, there is an attempt to lift some of the burdens by changing the relationship between a college and the LSC, with the college becoming more autonomous and self-regulating, and the LSC more strategic and supervisory. “For most colleges and providers, conversations will take place just twice a year, once to agree a plan and once to review performance against it.”
7 There has been some movement here too as the FE White Paper (DfES, 2006) proposes: “to examine whether funding for 14 – 16 yr old learning should be distributed so that where a young person attends more than one institution each is funded proportionately.” A number of tricky issues remain, but the White Paper outlines some possible models of ways forward.