Editor's comment

24th February 2006 at 00:00
What is it Ken Livingstone thinks he can do for colleges in London that the Learning and Skills Council cannot? If his bid to take over the pound;1.4 billion post-16 education and training budget for the capital convinces John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, the council may as well pack-up and retire early. It would be an emphatic vote for regional control of FE.

The Mayor of London brings to the debate a mixture of new thinking and nostalgia. For new Labour, business appears to back him in the way it never did in the days of the Greater London Council. And, for the old guard, there is the promise of a return to the halcyon days of the Inner London Education Authority and the undoing of the worst of Thatcherite policies.

Does this really add up to a formula for success? What is going wrong under the current regime?

Under the LSC since 2001, there have been significant increases in student stay-on and attainment rates.

While many rail against the lack of cash for adult education, this is due to government, not LSC policy. The cause is the redirection of cash to pay for record numbers of 16 to 19-year-olds in the system.

If there is any complaint against the LSC - in London as anywhere else - it is that the organisation has failed to loosen the grip of central government.

How can it, when, as Julian Gravatt, finance director of the Association of Colleges, points out on page 1, there are 22 national organisations imposing on colleges at a cost of pound;500 million a year.

What colleges and training providers need is less not more government.

Ministers appear to be slowly coming round to this. Witness local government minister David Miliband's emphasis on the cities (small cities, not Greater London) and increased voluntary participation.

A report from the Institute for Public Policy Research this week calls for elected mayors in the cities. But the same arguments apply.

But it is Alan Tuckett, director of the adult learning organisation, Niace, who points to the real issue this week.

Economic development and training should go hand in hand, "but control is not the same as being hand in hand". What would happen to those colleges that have developed powerful links with colleges outside London?

A huge range of 14-19 collaborative links that know no geographical boundaries have developed across education and industry since 2001.

Let us see these flowers bloom before tilling the soil yet again.

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