FE goes in search of its purpose

A major review of further education in Wales has been welcomed by the sector - providing it is given enough time to do its job.

Sir Adrian Webb, former vice-chancellor of the University of Glamorgan, is to lead a small panel of experts in reviewing the mission and purpose of FE.

The review was publicly mooted by the Assembly government in October. But fforwm, which represents Wales's 25 FE colleges, was expecting work to have begun in September.

John Graystone, fforwm chief executive, welcomed the review but said it would be seeking reassurances that Sir Adrian's team will be given enough time.

"We are looking forward to contributing to its investigations," he said.

"Every year, FE institutions deliver learning to nearly 300,000 people.

This is a chance to make sure that Wales's post-16 education and training system makes the best use of public money while helping each student to reach their full potential."

Announcing Sir Adrian's appointment last week, education, lifelong learning and skills minister Jane Davidson said: "The review will incorporate an analysis not just of FE institutions, but of the wider role of the sector regarding post-16 developments, 14-19 learning pathways, higher education and workplace learning."

The review will also look at how far FE colleges should focus on economically useful skills, specialisation, self-regulation, workforce development, and monitoring and publishing students' views.

A proposed Further Education and Training Bill, announced in last month's Queen's speech, will allow the Welsh Assembly to introduce its own measures on FE.

FE has felt threatened by plans to give local authorities the power to recommend reorganisations of post-16 provision, with fforwm arguing councils have a vested interest in school sixth forms.

However, a series of Estyn reports have highlighted the limited course options available in "inefficient" small sixth forms.

Inspectors also identified a lack of trust between schools and colleges competing for students, but they are expected to work together under the 14-19 reforms.

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