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Beacons shine on all of FE

Our new Beacon status criteria is not about watering down standards (TES, December 12) but about recognising the efforts of all types of colleges and providers across the learning and skills sector.

There is now a limited range of provider types that have Beacon status and are able to act as role models for the sector. It has generally been agreed that a broader mix of provider types could enable Beacons to have more impact across the sector. We found that some exceptional institutions, including many of the general further education colleges, were unable to meet the current inspection threshold because of their wide range of curriculum areas and the differing needs of their returners.

We have introduced revised selection criteria to enable a broader mix of provider types to be considered for Beacon status. The key changes have been to revise the inspection criteria where the threshold will be based on at least two thirds of learners undertaking study in the curriculum areas graded at 1 or 2. There has been no change in the leadership and management requirement.

Meeting the inspection and Learning and Skills Council criteria is not an automatic entitlement to Beacon status. A new national advisory panel comprising the department, the LSC and external partners, will consider proposals from successful organisations that meet the criteria and assess their capacity to share good practice and take forward leading edge practice. Only those organisations which can clearly demonstrate their capability to make an impact in respect of supporting the success for all reforms will be invited to become a learning and skills beacon.

I am confident that the new inspection criteria coupled with the assessment by the LSC will remain a significant challenge for any providers aspiring to gain Beacon status.

Alan Johnson

Minister for lifelong learning, further and higher education

Department for Education and Skills, London

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