More pay for all staff, minimising financial barriers to education, and greater racial equality are just a few of the items on the election wish list of three key players in FE.
THE Association for College Management (ACM) places learning and leadership at the centre of its manifesto for post-16 education and training.
ACM's vision is of a society that values and advocates learning for a range of purposes - personal, social and economic. The challenges for post-16 education are to develop a skilled workforce in the UK equal to the world's best; to combat social injustice and exclusion through education and qualifications; to deliver steady rises in learners' achievements.
To address these challenges, policies which minimise the financial barriers to participation are a priority. ACM calls on the next government to build on the success of education maintenance allowance pilots and extend EMAs across the country. This policy will lift the participation and success of young students. The legal right to training for 16 to 18-year-olds in full-time work should be the first step towards establishing a minimum entitlement to training for all employees. Such an entitlement is essential to the underlying culture shift we are seeking to achieve. It will promote an inclusive, democratic atmosphere of learning.
Eradicating illiteracy is a top priority and thus the removal of financial obstacles is vital. We propose that New Deal policies employ positive incentives to participation rather than negative financial pressure.
ACM advocates a rational, coherent curriculum and qualifications framework for the post-16 sector. The achievements and skill sets represented by each qualification will be comprehensible to everyone who needs to know, including learners and employers. All rungs on progressin ladders will be in place and progression routes will be clear. Adults will access short episodes of learning that suit the reality of their lives; funding arrangements will underpin this flexible access.
We need policies backed by resources to lift the status of vocational education. Vocational qualifications based on sound national standards, well-planned implementation, expert advice to learners, up-to-date industry-standard learning environments and resources, excellent teaching, union learning reps, further financial inducements to skills updating (such as independent learning accounts (ILAs)) are called for.
Successful delivery of these key policies depends on effective partnership between government and the post-16 sector. A real increase in funding is essential.
Student success is in the hands of all staff. A general pay rise which restores equity with school colleagues would lift morale, motivation and commitment to the highest standards.
The recognition of the value of leadership must be extended to leaders who manage learning in the post-16 sector. The Teachers' Pay Initiative must be extended to all staff in colleges, including managers. Everybody can contribute to higher standards; so everybody must have access to resources that reward contribution.
The partnership between government and the post-16 sector is incompatible with over centralisation. If service planning by the Learning and Skills Council at local level is over centralised, provision will be out of step with what real learners want. Partnership and dialogue with stakeholders, and the use of front-line intelligence to inform planning, will create the right programme of opportunities for the people of that area.
Nadine Cartner is education officer of the Association for College Management