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Stop moving the goalposts for further education, peer tells government

Liberal Democrat says FE has had to endure too many policy changes in recent decades

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The government should stop moving the goalposts for further education, Baroness Sharp of Guildford (pictured) has urged.

Speaking at the annual conference of college membership body Emfec today, the former head of the Liberal Democrats' higher and further education policy group said the sector deserved credit for coping with the raft of policy changes that had been forced upon it.

“If you look at the further education sector, the post has been moved around so often in the last two decades that it is quite a tribute to the sector that it has managed to keep its head above water," she told the conference in Nottingham.

Cuts to adult learning

Baroness Sharp also hit out at cuts to funding for adult learning, adding: “If you look at happiness and wellbeing, those people who keep up with education are happier and healthier people.”

She said that as the concept of the job for life was disappearing, it was crucial to find a way to help people of all ages to upskill and re-skill. “At the moment, the government are just cutting off those routes. And I feel very cross indeed about that. Area reviews are purely about funding," she added. “It is really important that the sector makes its voice heard as loudly as possible, and keeps up that voice, because at the end of the day there are so many people who benefit from it and at the moment they are not treated fairly."

Rob Peutrell, co-founder of Tutor Voices, an organisation for professionals teaching in FE, said the voice of teachers in the sector was being largely excluded from the decision-making process. This meant that their knowledge was also lost to the debate, he added. As a result, Mr Peutrell explained that teachers of Esol (English for speakers of others languages) were becoming increasingly politically active. "Teachers have a right and a responsibility to engage in the policy issues that affect our lives and our students’ lives," he added.

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