FE needs cash promise to reach targets

Ken Ruddiman

Open letter to Gordon Brown.

Dear Mr Brown,The Select Committee considering further education recently made its report. Under the chairmanship of Margaret Hodge, it concluded that the FE sector should be the main vehicle for delivering the bulk of the Government's education and training policies.

The sector has now received the Tomlinson report which encourages us to modify our teaching and learning strategies to ensure benefit to the maximum number of people of all interest and abilities. The Kennedy report highlighted barriers to access retention and progression which we have taken on board. The Fryer report provided a comprehensive and coherent catalogue of hope and aspirations which, for some time, we have all wished to pursue.

The Green Paper sharpened this list into targets and priorities, and provided an overall framework for further development; The Royal Society of Arts report on Redefining Work provided the context in employment and at leisure in which the policies will be implemented.

Finally, Ms Hodge has recognised the dynamic and innovatory nature of the sector as demonstrated already by the work which we have undertaken.

The sector has laid paths for New Deal. It has risen to the Skills Challenge. It is developing Centres of Excellence. We have learned how to co-operate with each other, if this leads to economies and how to compete if it improves efficiency.

We gave consistently reduced our expenditure, yet we have expanded the service to embrace new client groups, the disenchanted and the disaffected. We are participating at a regional level in identifying skills shortages and pursuing regional strategies to address these. We are supportive of innovation and looking forward to playing a full part in the University for Industry. Our staff are committed and flexible in both their imagination and approach. We wish to be more accountable to our communities, but to do so we need resources to expand relevant provision that they need and want.

We now need a commitment for resources from 1999 to a consistent level for three years at least to achieve the agenda we share with you and the immediate establishment of a simple process (costing no more than, say, 5 per cent of the outlay) to set targets, distribute funds and monitor achievement.

You have argued that a successful programme will result in improved international competitiveness, enhanced wealth creation and reduced dependence on state support. Any increased money for the sector, therefore, can clearly be viewed as an investment on which there will be a substantial return.

In the election you and your colleagues made promises which were well-received. The Secretary of State for Education has started to address many of these within the funds available. The sector now needs your support to deliver the others.

Yours sincerely, Ken Ruddiman.

* Ken Ruddiman is principal and chief executive of the Sheffield College.

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