Pocket Watch – FE’s spring revolution Introduction
Since the start of the month new funding rules have been published, updates on fee loans started, consultation on workforce regulations launched, modifications to Corporations’ forms of governance announced and developments around core learning groups such as apprentices, adult learners and HE students confirmed. FE’s ‘spring’ revolution continues
Funding and fees
Simplification means the 2012/13 Funding Rules, Version 1 of which was published at the start of the month, comes compressed into one document. Recent developments such as minimum durations for apprenticeship programmes, the use of the Innovation Code and ESOL funding are all included this year along with the piloting of Job Outcome Payments. As for fee loans, with eligible learners able to apply in 12 months, the build up has begun. The next big date is next month when the Dept publishes its impact assessments as well as some research on learner attitudes.
Two big questions at present:
will loans depress or stimulate the adult training market and what impact will it have on provider fee strategies let alone relationships with learners?
The Government sees public sector reform as a contingent feature of economic recovery with workforce reforms a part of this as evidenced by current talk of pensions, mobility and professional development. The Government is keen to beef up quality in the FE workforce while granting providers greater freedom over what forms of training and development it adopts. An initial set of proposals has been put forward by the Independent Review which is now under consultation; it includes revoking the 2007 Workforce Regulations and re-considering ITT provision. Phase 2 of the Review completes in the summer but the balance between institutional autonomy and external accountability remains the issue in raising quality
As part of its reform programme, the Government is keen for Corporations to exploit their new freedoms and review their operating models: mutuals, trusts, venture companies, all have been mentioned. Consultation is now complete on the Modification Order offering a new ‘light touch’ governance framework. The new Schedule 4 retains some requirements, for example the need for a Chief Exec and a Clerk and for consultation on changes to an institution’s mission, but is likely to provoke serious internal discussions about future operating structures
Developments around core learning groups
Three stand out. For apprenticeships, the latest NAS Quality Action Plan with its 30+ measures listed under 7 headings now comes into place before new contracts begin. For adult learning, the launch this month of a prospectus for Community Learning Trust pilots confirms the preferred ‘Big Society’ model sought here while for HE, the recent allocation of institutional funding shows what impact the shift towards a fee loan system is having on many providers; the fight for places, efficiencies and new income sources is on
Head of Policy (UK and International)
Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning