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FE needs to get closer to local employers, says Ofsted and ALI


Further education providers should do more to work closely with employers, according to the first joint annual report on post-16 education and training from the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) and the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI).

The report, which covers the provision of learning for over-16's in over 100 colleges, concludes that although teaching and learning for adults was good, very good or outstanding in 68% of lessons assessed and most adult students who are aiming for a qualification are successful, individual colleges and employers frequently do not work together closely enough to provide work-based learning and assessment in a co-ordinated way. Ofsted and ALI inspectors also found the quality of work-based learning poorer than other college provision, and that although some trainees develop useful practical skills, achievement rates are too low and workplace training is often poorly planned.

The Inspectors also found collaboration between further education colleges, the local education authority and the local learning and skills council was being hampered by the complexities of liaison needed between the various organisations.

David Bell, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector from Ofsted, said:

"Action is needed to rationalise provision in many areas and more effective collaboration is needed between schools, colleges, local education authorities, learning and skills councils and employers. Moreover, information and advice to students about the full range of choices available at age 16 plus need to be improved."

David Sherlock, Chief Inspector of the Adult Learning Inspectorate, said:

"About 80 per cent of learners in further education colleges are adults...there is sometimes a lack of connection with employers and employment which means some courses do not reflect the real world of work and consequently fail to meet the needs of adult learners or the economy. This is where general further education colleges should now focus their efforts."

Responding to the report, David Gibson, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said much of the criticism levelled at local colleges related to issues within the Learning and Skills Council's remit, rather than the colleges themselves:

"Once again, we have a report which states that over 90% of the lessons observed by Inspectors are satisfactory or better - especially for adults. However, Ofsted then claims that the pattern of further education provision in many areas of the country fails to need the needs of large numbers of learners. This planning remit is the responsibility of the LLSC (local Learning and Skills Council), and includes all the organisations which it funds. We can only assume that Ofsted is claiming that the Local Learning and Skills Councils are not yet in a position to carry through their remit to ensure...that provision as made by all providers in an area is rationalised where necessary to meet the needs of the community."

He added: "Colleges are then criticised for 'frequently' not working closely enough with employers. The average college directly serves some 200 businesses in its community and far larger numbers of individual employees taking responsibility for their own upskilling. In fact, colleges are the main engines of local skill development in most communities, despite the fact that this area of work is notoriously hard to implement and that the LSC itself is struggling to do so."

Mr Gibson pointed to the lack of a successsor to the ILA scheme, lack of flexibility allowed in providing courses to employers and lack of funds as some of the problems faced by colleges in their attempts to deliver effective work-based learning, and said the AoC would ask Ofsted to make their assessments more recognisable to colleges.


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