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FE White Paper: “Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances” – A Briefing Paper for Work-based Learning Providers This briefing summarises the White Paper and details the significant content and the implications for WBL providers. For more detailed information the full document is available from: DfES Publications PO Box 5050 Sherwood Park Annesley Nottingham NG15 0DJ www.dfes.gov.uk Introduction The FE White Paper: Raising Skills Improving Life Chances was published on the 27th March 2006 and sets out the planned reforms that will ensure that FE is fit for purpose. Its aim is to make sure that the UK becomes one of the world leaders in skills development. The reforms look to speed up the process started with the 14-19 skills strategies and identifies three significant challenges for the FE sector: • • •

Virtually all young people to stay in education to the age of 19, and, half to go on to HE All adults to have the support they need to up-skill and re-skill through out life All employers to see skills as key to their success

These challenges will be instantly recognisable to WBL providers as they are key to their education and training business. In the opening summary the document defines the FE system as ‘colleges and training providers,’ including all aspects of post 16 general and vocational qualifications, apprenticeships, other forms of work-based training and adult learning; from basic skills to foundation degrees. Although much of the paper appears to relate to colleges the whole document is about the ‘FE system’ and there are significant implications for work-based learning providers within the proposals. The White Paper builds on strategies that are familiar to WBL including; the 14-19 skills strategies, the Success for All programme and the LSC’s Agenda for Change reforms. It also builds on the Foster Review and the reform principles the Government has adopted in


other sectors e.g. Higher Standards, Better Schools for All - White Paper on school reform. There are six main areas for reform detailed in the White Paper: • • • • • •

Mission and specialisation Meeting employer and learner needs A national strategy for better teaching and learning Spreading success and eliminating failure Funding A new relationship with colleges and providers

These reforms are expected to enable the ‘FE system’ to realise its potential as a key driver in economic growth and development. Some of the benefits expected to be in place by 2008 include: • •

• •

Young people will benefit from five new specialised diplomas. (14 Diplomas available by 2013) Adults will be benefiting from the first stages of a clearer, simpler, qualifications framework, designed by employers and fully implemented from 2010 Employers throughout the country will be benefiting from training delivered in the work place, by a provider of their choosing, delivered to suit their operational needs. Training for basic skills and Level 2 qualifications will be free, and there will be access to Level 3 and HE provision. Standards will be improved by strong specialist networks across colleges and training providers New high quality providers will be encouraged to enter the FE system to drive up standards, raise innovation, and expand the range of training available The LSC will have stopped funding any inadequate colleges, providers or departments, levering up standards through radical change such as merger or federations with another stronger college, or a change in leadership. There will be much closer collaboration between schools and colleges, with 14-19 pupils able to study courses in the institution best placed to meet their needs and interests.

The six areas of reform and implications for WBL 1. Mission and Specialisation This section of the White Paper looks at the challenges in FE and places the economic mission at the heart of its role. There are implications for WBL providers and the work that they do, although in this section the reforms build on existing good practice. In this section of the White Paper it is suggested


that providers revise their mission and identify their specialist skills to ensure that they focus on: • •

The employability and progression of learners Equipping young people and adults with the competencies that employers want (including developing the attributes and skills for enterprise and self employment) Developing one, or more, specialist area of excellence and driving its improvement

The section also identifies the future importance of Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs), including the role of employers, and, of the National Skills Academies (NSAs). Both are seen as pivotal in the drive for specialisation. The paper is keen to point out that economic mission does not mean narrow vocationalism and that general education should include preparation for life and work alongside provision at Levels 2 and 3. It also identifies the need to strengthen the role of colleges and training providers in HE. It is suggested that as general FE colleges increasingly focus on their core or specialist area(s) of excellence and mission, local authority and voluntary providers may focus on wider personal fulfilment and community programmes, with funding targeted on securing high quality provision which meets local community priorities*. Implications for WBL providers will be to ensure that: • They have good employment and progression opportunities for learners • Training meets the needs of employers and equips learners for future developments, such as self employment • They continue to provide training that includes life skills • They are clear about their own specialist areas of excellence and can support ongoing development, such as Specialist Diplomas and Level 3 provision. • Where possible they engage with the developments in HE, particularly work-based developments. NB: * WBL providers may need to consider this when drawing up development plans. 2. Meeting employer and learner needs This area of reform is focused on placing learners and employers ‘in the driving seat’ to determine what is funded and how services are delivered. It


identifies a number of strategies that will make the sector more responsive to the needs of employers and learners. They include: • • •

Trial of learner accounts to help people gain Level 3 qualifications Entitlement to free training to enable young people to complete their education and training, to Level 3, up to age 25. Roll out of the Train to Gain programme, extended to include subsidised Level 3 qualifications (also to extend this programme to test the introduction of work-based training at HE level). Employers to access training through a single broker. Qualification reform to improve progression routes e.g. Specialist Diplomas

Implications for WBL: WBL providers are already involved with a number of these initiatives. They will need to work closely with partners, such as employers, local networks, other providers and the Skills Brokers, to ensure that they deliver the training that meets the needs of employers and learners and to make themselves the provider of choice. 3. A national strategy for better teaching and learning This section of the paper identifies three aspects of improving teaching and learning: i. ii. iii.

Providers taking responsibility for improving quality within their own organisations The role of the Quality Improvement Agency in leading the National Quality Improvement Strategy for teaching and learning in FE. Strategies for workforce development (backed by the new measures of success for staff, currently under development) that will include training, CPD and industrial updating.

There is evidence of the reforms being put into practice. The newly formed Quality Improvement Agency (QIA) will be taking responsibility for overseeing these developments through their Quality Improvement Strategy, now available for consultation. The final version is due to be published late autumn 2006. The introduction of new courses leading to Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills status (QTLS) are scheduled from September 2007. Implications for WBL: This section has major implications for WBL, and providers will need to:


• • •

Remain aware of developments, particularly relating to the changes in teaching/training qualifications Revise staff development plans to reflect the proposed changes and ensure that they can meet the new requirements. Review arrangements for continuous professional development (CPD) and industrial updating for trainers and assessors.

Sources of information relating to better teaching and learning: Equipping Our Teachers for the Future – DfES Publications www.qia.org.uk (Programmes and Services -The National Teaching and learning change programme) s4s programme 4. Spreading success and eliminating failure This reform raises the bar to ensure that all provision is good or improving. Any provider who is judged to be failing or coasting will be subject to an improvement notice. Providers will be given support to address the problems immediately. Where issues remain unresolved within a year the LSC will be able to take decisive action, this could mean merger or help from a stronger provider. New structural models will be encouraged which could have implications for the way that WBL providers are managed and do business. These include federations, collaborative partners and trusts. The aim of these new models is to spread best practice and lead change within the system. New competition arrangements will allow new, high quality providers to enter the system. This is both an opportunity and a threat for WBL. The system will allow independent or voluntary sector training providers to enter the sector and new institutions to be established, according to need. The LSC have produced a consultation document identifying how performance might be measured in the future. You can respond to the ‘Framework for Excellence: A Comprehensive Performance Assessment Framework for FE’ (July 2006) consultation until 20th October 2006. The document is available from www.lsc.gov.uk in electronic format. The Framework proposes seven Key Performance Indicators: • • • • • • •

Delivery against plan Responsiveness to learners Responsiveness to employers Quality of provision Quality of outcomes Financial Health Financial Control


These performance indicators will form a ‘score card of measures’ and evidence of success against these indicators will be incorporated into provider self-assessment and internal grading processes. The outcomes are clearly linked to the New Measures of Success and providers will need to use these within their self-assessment. The detail of how the performance indicators will be scored is currently under discussion, with two methods described in the paper. Final Consultation closes on the 20th October 2006 and further guidance is expected early in 2007. Implications for WBL providers will be to ensure that • Quality assurance and self assessment demonstrate a continuous improvement model and incorporates the ‘New Measures of Success’ • Self-assessment is realistic and rigorous so that inspection confirms the progress claimed. • They begin to use the key performance indicators described in the ‘Framework for Excellence’ as part of their self –assessment process • They are flexible, willing and able to work collaboratively and share good practice.

5. Funding The funding reforms aim to provide a fair and comparable activity in levels of funding across all institutions, whilst enabling young people to study and train for part of their programme at another institution - a potential opportunity for WBL providers. The emphasis on customer choice, identified in meeting employer and learner needs, follows through to the proposed funding regime with plans for demand led routes such as Train to Gain and learner accounts. The aim is to have 40% of the adult budget allocated this way by 2010 with the majority demand led by 2015. There will still be an emphasis on supporting low-income learners, with adult learning grants extended nationally from September 2007. Tuition for 19-25 year olds their first Level 3 qualification will be funded in full, with 50% contribution for adults not entitled to the free tuition. The funding reforms should provide a more level playing field for WBL providers. Implications for WBL providers will be to ensure that: • They are, the learner and the employers, first choice. • They participate in new initiatives as they develop, such as Train to Gain 6. A new relationship with colleges and providers


In this section the paper describes the new relationship with providers that will simplify the system for planning, making clearer links between national and local priorities. There will be clearer roles and less bureaucracy at all levels, from DfES to provider level. It is expected that the LSC will strengthen its regional capacity in order to plan, with regional partners, for the skills infrastructure needed to meet the needs of employers and adults. This will include working as a primary partner with local authorities to implement the 16-19 entitlement. The reforms will come from; the LSC working strategically with providers and withdrawing from day to day administrative activity; the reform of inspection, quality improvement, qualifications and collection of data (already underway with the implementation of the New Measures of Success and the Learner Achievement Tracker (LAT)). Implications for WBL providers will be to ensure that: • • •

They have clear, targeted business and development plans that link to local and national priorities There are good sound arrangements for quality assurance and quality improvement They have robust arrangements for ensuring accurate data returns are made to the LSC

Practical tips: The following notes summarise some of the actions that WBL providers might prioritise over the coming months to make sure that they are ready and able to participate in the planned inclusive ‘FE system’: •

Ensure that there is robust system for self-assessment and quality improvement in place so that the organisation meets the requirements for high quality provision, including good and improving success rates and evidence of distance travelled (New Measures of Success).

Develop/revise staff development plans, so that they are clear, targeted and time-bound and ensure that staff meet the new requirements for qualifications and CPD.

Identify available routes towards qualifications for staff. Develop systems to support CPD for staff that will enable them to renew their licence to practice as QTLS is rolled out.

Develop/revise current strategy to recognise core business and build on self-assessment. Identifying what the organisation does well, leading to focused ongoing business development plans, with particular


emphasis on specialist skill areas . For example plans may include: partnership working on Specialist Diplomas for Young People, Apprenticeships for 14-16 year olds, Skills for Life and Train to Gain, or, focus on a specific vocational area and link with a Centre of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) or National Skills Academy (NSA) Other aspects for consideration: •

Focus on employer engagement and support, making sure that the training offered is ‘fit for purpose’ and suits the employers operational needs.

Consider the development of partnerships/networking arrangements to support the vocational aspects of the 14-19 agenda with schools, colleges and employer networks.

Consider networking with Sector Skills Councils and Diploma Development Partnerships to participate in the planning of specialist diplomas for young people.

Other available resources to support development: Planning for Success A Framework for planning quality (LSN) www.qia.gov.uk Excellence Gateway www.ali.gov.uk Excalibur Good Practice Examples www.lsc.gov.uk Piloting New Measures of Success: The Quality Improvement Pack Sector Skills Councils currently involved with Specialised Diploma Developments: www.constructionskills.net www.skillsset.org www.engineeringdiploma.com www.skillsforhealth.org.uk www.e-skills.com/diploma Further information on Train to Gain and support available can be found in the following websites: www.traintogain.gov.uk www.traintogaindevelopment.org.uk Helen Wales, LSN, September 2006


Any questions? If you have further questions about this topic, or other quality improvement issues that affect work-based learning providers, email or phone our s4s helpline: WBL@LSNeducation.org.uk Phone 020 7297 9041


Raising Skills