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FE sector damaged by 'constant change', warns City & Guilds

“Collective amnesia” among politicians about the countless policy changes made over the past three decades has seriously damaged the FE sector, a new report claims.

The City & Guilds Group calls for an end to the “constant change” faced by providers and warns that more scrutiny of policy is required to create the stability needed in the sector.

The report reveals that during the last 30 years, 61 different secretaries of state have been responsible for skills and employment policy, compared with just 18 for the schools sector. Further education has been moved between government departments 10 times in the same period.

The “consistent churn has created a collective amnesia and growing lack of organisational memory at political and official levels", the report argues.

“How can effective policies be designed without understanding what has and has not worked in the past?” it asks. “Comparisons of policy reveal that while times have changed, the challenges have not.

“For example, the recent UKCES [UK Commission for Employment and Skills] recommendations for engaging employers have a lot in common with recommendations made in 1984. Clearly the past has a lot it can teach us.

“Changes in government also meant rapid changes in policy: each minister wants to leave his or her mark. While these initiatives can have positive effects, sometimes it feels like a case of change for change’s sake.

“When our future workforce is concerned, this is simply not acceptable. Clarity is essential and mistakes can have lasting impact on individuals and the economy. Skills and employment policies need to be carefully designed, thoroughly tested and slowly embedded.”

The report also demands “greater scrutiny of changes to skills policy to deliver better taxpayer value for money”.

Sir John Armitt (pictured), chairman of City & Guilds, said: “They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It would be madness to ignore the evidence of three decades of skills and employment policy – yet our politicians have failed to learn from the past. This report is a wake-up call to all policymakers.”

Shadow infrastructure minister Lord Adonis said the report “rightly highlights the need for better checks and balances on policy making so that where there is an intervention by government, or a change of direction, it is grounded in a strong evidence base that takes into consideration the lessons of the recent past”.


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