Creating better connections

10th July 2009 at 01:00
Proposed sweeping changes to community learning and development will see closer collaboration between LTS and LLUK

Further Education colleges and the General Teaching Council for Scotland have lost out in a bid to become lead players in the future of community learning and development (CLD).

A Scottish Government review of Learning Connections, the official advisory body in the field, has recommended sweeping changes. The proposals will see much closer involvement by Learning and Teaching Scotland in overseeing practice and by Lifelong Learning UK, the employer- led sector skills council, in setting the standards for qualifications and courses for the 11,000-strong workforce in CLD.

The review has concluded that the sector, which used to be called community education and has undergone at least five changes of organisational identity in the past eight years, lacks national co- ordination and is complicated and confused.

Learning Connections is a division in the Government's lifelong learning directorate, but the review wants to see more connection between CLD, further and adult education and youth work. There is now likely to be closer integration at the policy level, which sees learning as part of the weaponry in "building community capacity" to benefit individuals and regenerate run-down areas. It was known in a previous life as "informal community education".

These latest proposals are still tentative. The review states: "We are now investigating their feasibility and intend to make a final statement later in the year that will confirm exactly what we are doing and how we will be taking it forward."

The direction of travel has nonetheless been welcomed by those most immediately involved. John McKnight, chair of CLD managers in Scotland, said it would strengthen the sector. Duncan Simpson, chair of its standards council, which will be absorbed into LLUK, said the plans would be "welcomed by most of those working in the CLD sector in Scotland".

Bernard McLeary, chief executive of LTS, "warmly welcomed" the envisaged changes which would "help reinforce the key role that Learning Connections has in helping to promote, shape and develop the skills of people within their communities across Scotland".

But others were not so positive. Tom Hamilton, director of educational policy at GTCS, said it was "disappointed". The review acknowledged that there was a "synergy" between learning in schools and the community, but added that giving the council a wider watchdog role in CLD would "limit the ability of anyone other than registered teachers to practise".

Chris Travis, chief executive of Scotland's Colleges, also expressed disappointment that the FE sector would not have a more direct responsibility for the development of CLD, but added that "we were pleased to be part of the conversation". The review suggested that putting colleges in the driving seat could preclude ministers from issuing policy directives.

A further option of sharing CLD between LTS and the colleges was dismissed on the grounds that "CLD identity could be lost if it was seen to be a unit overseen by schools on one side and colleges on the other".

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