It is now nearly three months since the Government announced its intention to conduct area reviews into the Further Education sector in their document, Reviewing Post-16 Education and Training Institutions, and although the first round of reviews is now underway, there still appears to be a lot of nervousness about what lies ahead. This is of course entirely understandable, since these reviews are uncharted waters and given the fact that they may well lead to some colleges having to merge or face closure.
One thing that is seen as a big issue in the sector is the tight timescales, and the difficulty this poses for colleges trying to prepare and react adequately. This is something that Nick Linford of LSect highlighted in his webinar on 30th September — Area reviews – what/who/where/when — and he pointed specifically to the difficulty of delivering an accurate view of the local economy on a short timescale, given the problems of mapping provision down to course and occupation level.
Our view is that although the timescales may well be tight, delivering this type of accurate view of the local economy within such timescales is very achievable, and we have a number of tools that can help. Not only this, but we also believe there are other things that colleges can do in advance of their review which will help them to be well prepared.
In order to think about what might stand colleges in good stead, a good place to start is to remind ourselves of the stated objectives of the reviews. According to the document they are two-fold:
1. Clear, high quality professional and technical routes to employment, alongside robust academic routes, which allow individuals to progress to high level skills valued by employers
2. Better responsiveness to local employer needs and economic priorities, for instance through local commissioning of adult provision, which will help give the sector the agility to meet changing skills requirements in the years ahead, building on the agreements with Greater Manchester, London and Sheffield
Add to these things the overarching context in which the document is set, which is one of “raising productivity and economic growth”, and we would suggest that any college that can do the following will be in a good position going into their review:
1. Articulate the economic value and contribution to local productivity that they are already making
2. Show that they really understand the needs of their labour market
3. Evidence that their curriculum is aligned or is being aligned to local demand
Over the next three pieces, which we will publish over this week and next, we will show you how you can achieve these goals and so go into your review with confidence.
If you would like to speak to someone about how we might help you get prepared for your area review, contact Andy Durman (firstname.lastname@example.org)