End of LSC no cause for celebration

30th May 2008 at 01:00
It must be hard for principals to feel any sense of liberation at the imminent demise of the Learning and Skills Council

It must be hard for principals to feel any sense of liberation at the imminent demise of the Learning and Skills Council.

Admittedly, the LSC's "single goal" of improving skills and productivity has always been a simplistic vision of the real purpose of post-16 education; and the exaggerated potential of a quango, combined with Government targets to improve the output of employers, has always had an unpleasant whiff of Stalinist central planning. But to blame the LSC is to shoot the messenger.

What is proposed to replace the LSC is a masterpiece of bureaucratic muddle. Colleges must now deal with a number of funding routes that will be as easy to navigate as the Birmingham road network on a wet Sunday afternoon.

Indeed, Birmingham was the setting for the annual conference of the Association for College Management, where chief executive Peter Pendle spoke out against the new arrangements last week. He speculates that the arrangements are a misguided attempt at vote-winning by a Government that wants to take the wind out of Tory sails by pre-empting their plans to abolish the LSC.

Let's think about the vote-winning potential of these changes. First, they provide more work for local authorities. Out in the real world, it is unlikely that handing such important work to local government will be widely welcomed.

Among those who work in FE, there will be dismay that having been sold the idea of a single, joined-up "lifelong learning sector" since 2001, they must adjust to a fragmented regime that will be highly variable in its effectiveness, depending on which local authorities each college is left to deal with.

FE has become the prize exhibit of our education system. But the funding regime proposed to support all this is in danger of exploding like a giant rotten marrow.

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