'Enhanced future' for FE is a must, say Lib Dems

2nd April 2010 at 01:00
Skills and training will feature heavily in the Liberal Democrats' election manifesto

Skills and training will feature heavily in the Liberal Democrats' election manifesto, with the party committed to expanding apprenticeships and creating a single funding body for adult further and higher education, according to Lib Dem skills secretary Stephen Williams.

Responding to questions in this week's live webchat for FE Focus, Mr Williams said that the party's manifesto would definitely call for an "enhanced future" for FE. He managed to answer almost 30 questions during the hour-long webchat on Tuesday and described the 50 per cent participation target for higher education as "fatuous", and said that the party favoured an holistic approach to adult education with one funding council for adult FE and HE: the Council for Adult Skills and Higher Education (CASHE).

Responding to a question asking what can be done to stop FE being used as a "dumping ground" for "challenging" teenagers that schools "don't want to teach", Mr Williams said: "FE already is a huge provider of choice for post-16 and I see no reason for it not to be so at 14 to 16 too."

He said his party was committed to closing the 16-19 funding gap between schools and colleges and that it was madness that free meals were not also offered to FE students. The Lib Dems would also increase spending on apprenticeships with incentives for small employers.

FE Focus is planning a webchat with the Conservatives' shadow minister for universities and skills, David Willetts, between 10am and 11am on April 8. Please send questions to help@tes.co.uk or see www.fefocus.co.uk for further details.


WEBCHAT HIGHLIGHTS

What plans do the Lib Dems have for adult learning in the future?
Matt Atkinson, principal of City of Bath College

SW: "We will fund more foundation degrees - 15,000 - that will largely be in FE colleges like Bath, and divert Train to Gain to funding apprentice places. We see a great future for FE."

Is there any chance that any UK government can understand that FE is not the best way of fixing a broken school system, and that actually fixing the school system is the best approach?
Winlinuser, TES Forums user

SW: "We want a pupil premium. Yes, it's extra money, but it is focused on kids from poor backgrounds, at school or college. I was on free school meals myself at school."

In 2005, the Liberal Democrat manifesto promised to close the 16-19 funding gap between young people in schools and those in colleges taking the same courses. Will this be in your 2010 manifesto?
Association of Colleges

SW: "Yes, we remain committed to closing that funding gap. For instance, it is mad that free meals are not available to FE students."

View the full transcript at: www.tes.co.uklibdemfechat.

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