Wednesday, 22 June 2005

Contrast and compare

Education Guardian has a story today about the cuts in spending on Adult Education at sub-degree level, these are the courses offered at Further Education Colleges and include adult literacy and numeracy courses and Access courses designed to prepare mature students for progressing to degree studies at traditional universities. Government funding for these courses is managed by the Learning and Skills Council and the number of students benefiting from this funding is expected to drop by 10% in the next academic year. At the same time the government continues to fund the Aimhigher initiative aimed at increasing participation in Higher Education by those in the 18 - 30 age group - this is funded, in part, through the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The target is that by the year 2010 50% of that age group will have "some exposure" to HE - this "exposure" is a moving feast and originally meant that they would earn at least 120 CATS points but the feeling is that in a few years time anyone who has driven past a university campus will have qualified as being "exposed". But of course the introduction of "top up" fees will make it harder for some to consider moving on to HE. The final factor to consider is that pupils who stay on after the age of 16 can earn £30 each week as an "Education Maintenance Allowance". This means tested benefit is aimed at widening participation in socio-economic groups who might otherwise not study after reaching the age at which they can leave the mainstream education system. Of course making these payments also keeps these young school leavers off the unemployment figures too - an emergent property that, I'm sure, is unintended. And the introduction of Foundation Degrees is also squeezing FE colleges, universities are offering FDs but delivering them through partner colleges because the costs (to the university) are lower and they still gain a percentage of the course fees and government subsidy. This shift to offering more lower level courses, the ones still being funded by the LSC, and FDs means that staffing in FE is creating problems. Tutors qualified to work on Foundation Degrees are unlikely to work on L1 courses as well. And pay and conditions for tutors in FE colleges still lag behind the benefits enjoyed by university academics.

So where does this leave the poor learner and their local FE college? Does it appear incoherent? Does the way in which these fiscal levers are being used make sense if the objective is to increase the skill sets of the workforce in this knowledge economy? Who knows? And that's probably the most worrying part!

PS Thanks Kat - I had forgotten about this: Please also download and look at the Manifesto for Change.

18 careful considerations:

kat said...

Funding is getting very difficult in adult education and it is tied up with getting people into employment. In some cases the education establishments have to prove that the students have gained employment. This leaves those who cannot work or who are retired right out of the picture. Can I please ask people to look at the Niace website at http://www.niace.org.uk/

Please also download and look at the Manifesto for Change.
http://www.niace.org.uk/Research/Manifesto/Manifesto.pdf

Nogbad said...

Good call Kat - and we've not even started on the reduction in evening classes as local authorities find the LSC cutting funding for non-credit bearing courses.

Rob Spence said...

But have you noticed how the Learning and Skills Council always seems to have lots of highly paid executive jobs going, with mystifying job specs usually involving the words "facilitating" and "customers"?

Nogbad said...

Shortly before leaving the college I worked at I attended an Association of Colleges meeting and it seemed clear from the LSC people there that this cut in funding is just a start and that there are likely to be big changes in who funds what in future. Given the government's dash for qualifications it seems probable that more will fall to HEFCE which may mean that sub-degree funding will become even more targetted on certain groups to the exclusion of others. Sadly there have been and always will be losers but the shifts are really stretching FE provision and it's being further squeezed by the growth in Sixth Form Academies and a rebirth of Technical Colleges albeit under a different banner and funded through LEAs rather than the LSC. Bums on seats is the name of the game and schools are moving into vocational training as well as academic provision and it's difficult to see how FE will look in five years time - their market is being eroded at the younger end and it doesn't attract funding for older students. As always the groups who will suffer the most are usually those most vulnerable.

kat said...

I am at work this morning trying to do a damage limitation exercise re funding. Just over 12 months ago we were given funding for community learning. During the course of the year the goal posts have moved and narrowed so many times it is almost laughable.

6 months into the scheme we were told that we could not have funding for those over the age of 64 because they were unlikely to gain employment. Next we were told that we couldn’t have funding for those under 19 because they had been in education within the last 3 years. Then anyone who had been in education of any kind within the last 3 years. (Including taking the ECDL or CLAIT or any level one and above course) Then the big one – those who can’t achieve a certainly level i.e. those with learning difficulties or severe physical difficulties, because they too are unlikely to gain employment. Last week I was told that those already in employment shouldn’t have been on the scheme because they already had work and their employers should be training them.

I ask you. Who the hell is left? Call this community learning.

I am waiting for the next one - Those at level 2 and above did not need our support.

Rob Spence said...

It seems like a very simple, and very new Labour principle - you can give support to anyone except those who need support.

Nogbad said...

The college I worked at was told that funding for NVQ L3 was being cut but increased at L1. In terms of sectors such as ICT this clearly reduces the progression through to the ICT FD. This is just one example and also highlights the pressures on staff - the staff who are qualified to teach at FD might be unwilling to work at L1 (or simply unable to).

kat said...

I don’t think it is so much that the staff are unwilling to work at level 1 although many including myself are not particularly trained to do so. This centre has worked at all levels and members of the community have worked together and helped each other. That’s the richness that has now been lost. Some of my level 1s are distressed and I have just consoled one young girl who was in tears because this, she says, was the first time she had been able to meet and work with others in the community, on what felt like equal terms. ( She must have spent the best part of the week writing the long note which I have put on the top of all the files. ) The governments push to work on and point out peoples weaknesses rather than their strengths will, in my opinion, be disastrous.

kat said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nogbad said...

I certainly know of staff who would be unwilling to work at L1. They are graduates with many years of higher level courses and they simply cannot work at the basic level - as you say part of it is training but part is also that the demands at that level are so very different.

The push towards FDs in FEs also causes other staffing issues. Traditionally tutors in FE didn't need to have an formal academic qualifications but they do to work on undergraduate programmes. Thus existing staff are losing hours as the FD programmes are implemented and additional staff have to be engaged to work on them. Because of the differences in pay and respite time in FE in comparison with HE or schools it is difficult to attract and retain suitably qualified tutors for FD programmes but the pressure to run them is increasing.

Nogbad said...

It seems like a very simple, and very new Labour principle - you can give support to anyone except those who need support.

And sadly the groups losing out in this round are also those who have been done up like kippers in the Tax Credit fiasco.

kat said...

I don't disagree with what you are saying. I guess what I was trying to say is that even if you are willing to work at level 1, the whole experience can be sole destroying, in a college setting. Many college tutors are trying to teach people who are being forced into college and simply don't want to be there. What is the point of that?

Rob Spence said...

...and something similar often happens at the lower end of HE. I have students who clearly don't want to be doing a degree and have absolutely no commitment, but are doing it because they are expected to - by parents, peers, society...

kat said...

The headlines in today's Lancashire Evening Post.

"5000 students lose out as adult course centres scrapped - 100 Staff Axed."

Oh what a depressing day.

On the face of it, the college I work for has actually just gained an extra 40% work but we all know that it won't make up for the cuts and the problems that are to come.

Nogbad said...

I guess our common background adds to this - we all work with adults who, in the main, want to study but the issues around funding and top up fees are going to make it harder for people to meet the government's aspirations about lifelong learning.

Is that story online anywhere Kat? I'd like to grab it for some project work I'm doing.

kat said...

The News report is available at

http://www.lep.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=73&ArticleID=1064428

Nogbad said...

Thanks :-)

Morning-Loves-It said...

And as I get all my news updates from Radio 4 there's been a whole half hour slot dedicated to this today on You and Yours between midday and 1.00 o'clock.