Devolution of the adult education budget (AEB) will lead to more skills gaps, not less, a college principal has warned.
Bedford College principal and chief executive Ian Pryce said he does not think devolution is the answer to the “issues we face with adult skills”. Mr Pryce was speaking at a Westminster Education Forum seminar on skills devolution in London on Tuesday morning.
He told the audience: “Our regions are remarkably homogeneous in terms of their skills gaps. Every region needs more technicians, managers, care workers – there isn’t a region that doesn’t need more bricklayers. That’s why colleges across the country, from Bedford to Bradford, will put on the same courses. I am worried that devolution will be destabilising and create more variability and more skills gaps."
The government plans to devolve the adult education budget to several combined authority areas and the Greater London Authority from next year. These areas are Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City, London, Sheffield City, Tees Valley, West Midlands and the West of England.
Adult education: 'We know what's best for you'
Bedford College is in the county of Bedfordshire, which borders Cambridgeshire, where the mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough combined authority is preparing to take control of AEB spending.
Mr Pryce said only a small amount of their overall income will come from the mayor’s budget, but this still means an extra level of bureaucracy for staff to deal with in terms of grappling with funding methodologies and also having to produce separate promotional materials for people within the mayoral combined authority areas, compared with those outside of them.
Under devolution, Mr Pryce said metro mayors will be deciding “what is right for you”, adding: “It’s back to, ‘We know what’s best for you.'
“We will have to persuade people to enrol on to the course they are told is best for them rather than simply the course that is what they want to do. Individuals know better than anyone what is right for them.”
The mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, James Palmer, also spoke at the event and called for the 16-19 education budget and control of apprenticeships to be devolved to the metro mayors.