FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

As the time for the next Chief Inspector’s Annual Report approaches, three members of the Policy Consortium look for messages that may emerge about the past year, as well as some of the possible implications they might have. Colin Forrest, Carolyn Medlin and Mike Cooper lay down challenges for the education watchdog as it becomes more involved in the improvement agenda. (more…)

twittertwitter  The Policy Consortium on Twitter

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Mike Cooper reflects on current and past prophecies of the brave new worlds of ‘work’ and ‘leisure’ – and their implications for further education

A recent ‘OECD Insight’ blog again raises some familiar, and hard, questions: just what are we educating and training young people for? What sort of work and what sort of life lie ahead for them, and in what sort of world? It’s a somewhat different take, to my mind, on the recent cliché of ‘work–life balance’.

Brian Keeley, of the OECD Public Affairs and Communications Directorate, is short, clear and powerfully thought provoking in his article. Has the acceleration of technological change reached the tipping point where it has begun to destroy jobs faster than it creates them? Has education lost the race to spread the benefits of technology between the many? Are we now stuck with a ‘hollowed out’ workforce of high skills and low skills jobs – with very little and increasingly less in between.

These issues have been debated for centuries, and no less frequently in our times – because they matter. For many of us, the article may hold few real surprises but it’s well worth reading for its revival of the crux of the debate, and that matter of ‘balance’. (more…)

twittertwitter  The Policy Consortium on Twitter

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

First roll out then roll back? is an interesting piece by RSA’s Chief Executive Matthew Taylor about outsourcing and payment by results (PbR) in the public sector, with what is a fairly chilling conclusion:

“Opponents of outsourcing focus on the transfer of public funding and assets to the private and not for profit sectors. Critics of PbR worry that it may not lead to improvements in outcomes. But perhaps both are missing the point. The longer term, deeper impact of introducing payment by results in a context of austerity may be to provide a rationale for an unprecedented narrowing of the social outcomes for which Government accepts accountability.”

The same logic could be applied to the current FE loans experiment. Has the government thought through the implications for vocational learning if loans are not taken up and provision crumbles? There are many in the sector who worry that the implications have not been thought through: but if in truth they have been and government faces the prospect of level 3 meltdown with equanimity the picture could be even worse.

twittertwitter  The Policy Consortium on Twitter

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

The Apprenticeship Funding Consultation, launched by the government at the end of July, is full of good intentions. It aims to increase the number and quality of apprenticeships and at the same time get better value for money from public spending. Sadly, however, its proposals seem to show a closer acquaintance with first-year economic theory than the real world.

Theory says that giving employers more control over public funds, and requiring them to make a cash contribution themselves, will ‘empower’ them to drive up quality and efficiency. (Theory also says that requiring cash for something that was once effectively free is a bit of a turn off but that rule seems to be ignored.) The consultation therefore explores three options for giving employers greater control over taxpayers’ money.

The first real world issue to arise is that to distribute money directly to an unknown proportion of the one and a half million employers in the country is a little more complex than giving it to a couple of hundred colleges and perhaps a thousand training providers. The suggestion that it will be done by a new government IT solution does little to inspire confidence. And the need for the system to be simple enough to engage the large proportion of employers who are SMEs (small and medium-sized employers) raises the need for all sorts of awkward trade-offs; simplicity on the one hand versus equity, assurance of quality and the proper control of public monies on the other.

(more…)

twittertwitter  The Policy Consortium on Twitter

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

New proposals for a College of Teaching offer a unique opportunity to raise the status of the teaching profession and encourage high quality, evidence-based professional development. But the measures are certain to prove counter-productive and divisive if they fail to include teachers of 16 to 19-year-olds outside the school system.

In response to consultations on proposals by the Prince’s Teaching Institute, we as members of the Policy Consortium applaud the idea of such a voluntary body. However, we caution against plans limiting membership to teachers in academies, maintained, special and independent schools and sixth-form colleges.

The scope of the College, as envisaged in the current proposals, excludes teachers in FE colleges. To do so, we argue in our response, is “absurd and indefensible” since further education teachers are responsible for considerably more Level 3 (A-level-equivalent) students than are those in state schools. This also sends out misleading messages to learners, parents, employers and others seeking assurances about quality. (more…)

twittertwitter  The Policy Consortium on Twitter

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Creeping privatisation and competition in state education has been a disaster across the globe almost everywhere it has been tried and yet the Coalition government seems hell-bent on pursuing it.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is repeatedly accused of putting the ideological maxim “private good; public bad” above all others. Department for Education details of plans, leaked recently to the Independent, to let firms run schools for profit served to reinforce this, in case anyone doubted it.

Gove’s plan for academies and free schools to become profit-making businesses using hedge funds and venture capitalists to raise money, were condemned by Stephen Twigg, Labour’s shadow education secretary, as a “triumph of dogma over evidence”. However, there’s little evidence Labour would reverse such measures, were they implemented before it was back in power.

Numerous recent reports suggest England has been heading in the wrong direction for decades. The most spectacular example is Finland, which rose form near bottom to top of international performance league tables since the 1970s through wholly state-funded measures to reduce inequality – abolishing fees, private education, the private tuition industry and streaming, among many radical reforms. (more…)

twittertwitter  The Policy Consortium on Twitter

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

The recently published report from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on college governance [350KB PDF] is in many ways a model of how to develop policy.  Unlike many announcements, which appear out of the blue and seem only to reflect the uninformed opinions of a handful of policy wonks, this report shows signs of having involved serious and sustained collaboration, both with the sector and with the Charities Commission.   Moreover, at a time when the phrase ‘evidence based policy’ is falling into disrepute, this publication draws extensively on independent evidence from bodies like LSIS and the Women’s Leadership Network.  The BIS team who led the review are to be congratulated.

It may seem churlish therefore to draw attention to a flaw with the work; but it is one that seems substantial.  The review seeks to deal with college governance in isolation from all the other changes occurring in the skills system and to the role of colleges. The assumption seems to be that the place of colleges is fundamentally unchanged by the turbulence in the external policy environment and the transformation that government, and particularly BIS, is trying to bring about. (more…)

twittertwitter  The Policy Consortium on Twitter

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Lasting success in education does not come overnight For truly outstanding performance a school or college needs the ‘three Ps’ – patience, professionalism and partnership, says Andrew Morris, author of a 20-year progress report on the path to success in a larger tertiary college.

Student Huseyin Acar unwittingly expressed the key message emerging from a study of an inner city college over the 20 years of its life when he said: ‘It’s a long-term relationship; we’ve run this journey together.’

What he said about his own learning journey from the day he started at City and Islington College until now mirrors that of the entire institution – created 20 years ago through the merger of two FE colleges, one sixth form centre and an adult education service. Moreover, it reflects the best of what further education as a whole has achieved since 1993, the year of Incorporation, when the sector left local authority control to go it alone. (more…)

twittertwitter  The Policy Consortium on Twitter

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

The Policy Consortium has submiited a formal response to the consultation issued by BIS on Chartered Status for the Further Education Sector: Proposals to Create a Chartered Status Scheme for Further Education Institutions:

The Policy Consortium strongly endorses the BIS goals for the chartered status arrangements – namely to help institutions within the FE sector celebrate their success, build their reputation and status, and gain recognition for what they have achieved within their communities…

However, we do have real concerns with fundamental aspects of the proposals as they currently stand. These concerns relate to the nature of status and how it is earned in the eyes of the public, and the relationship with other pre-existing marks and indicators – both those that are proposed to form part of the criteria for chartered status and those that will sit separately alongside that. We believe these concerns are shared widely amongst governors, senior managers and staff of sector institutions. Unless they can be addressed in the way the scheme is conceived and implemented we fear the outcome could easily be an award that is both confusing to the general public and lacking in meaning and value to the sector. 

Here is a copy of our full response [DOC].

twittertwitter  The Policy Consortium on Twitter

FacebooktwitterlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Reading the headline messages in Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw’s annual report, it is easy to be misled into thinking there are no outstanding colleges inEngland.

‘For the second year running, Ofsted did not judge a single college to be outstanding for teaching and learning,’ the media release accompanying the Ofsted report suggests. Such statements disregard the fact that under light-touch arrangements only 56 out of 341 colleges were inspected and that visits were skewed towards poorer performers.

Nor, reading the report, would one realise that the inspection goalposts were shifted, with last year’s ‘satisfactory‘ grades effectively reclassified ‘unsatisfactory‘. Moreover, colleges that were already outstanding in teaching and learning would not have been inspected in the last two years.

(more…)

twittertwitter  The Policy Consortium on Twitter