Flexibility explains the interest

17th July 2009 at 01:00

It was very disappointing to read the unsubstantiated claims ("Train to Gain boosted by `inappropriate' incentives", FE Focus, July 3) that independent providers might be "cheating the system" in delivering Train to Gain.

If Maurice Patterson (director of finance at Thomas Rotherham College) has any evidence at all to support his comments, he should raise it with the Learning and Skills Council immediately, which I am sure would be only too pleased to investigate.

The Association of Learning Providers, on behalf of its many private, third and public sector members, has always urged prompt and firm action on any provider found to be flouting or abusing the rules. There have been a very small number of serious problems from within the independent and college sector over the years, and they have all, sadly, brought the whole sector of predominantly high-performing providers into disrepute.

With increasing co-operation between providers of all types, it is important that those from all sections of further education remain supportive of each other. Certainly, since two examples of initial concerns were raised with the ALP and the Association of Colleges in April, the LSC has not brought any evidence of wrong-doing to our notice.

Furthermore, there is a simple and proper explanation for the increase in Train to Gain enrolments in recent months. Following last year's underspend, ALP, through its Train to Gain members' special interest group, presented a detailed blueprint to the old Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the LSC on how flexibilities in the programme could stimulate greater employer demand. Officials deserve credit for taking our proposals on board.

It is perhaps worth reminding readers that Ofsted found training providers "showed themselves to be adept at responding to the needs of employers" and that "providers which had prior experience of offering work-based learning or apprenticeships tended to have systems and processes that adapted well to Train to Gain".

Once again, the FE system has done a highly professional job, responding to government priorities and employer and individual needs.

Graham Hoyle, Chief executive, Association of Learning Providers.

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