Plain and simple pledge by chief
Mark Haysom, the newly-appointed chief executive of the Learning and Skills Council, has launched a crusade against jargon and excessive red tape.
He will use the latest bureaucracy task force report and a new survey - highly critical of what colleges and other providers think of the council - carried out on the eve of his appointment.
The survey reveals an organisation which is still seen as bureaucratic and jargon-ridden, where local decisions are regularly overruled and many staff are seen as lacking essential skills.
When he took office in September, Mr Haysom told his executive directors he was appalled at the level of jargon and bureaucracy, which was undermining the LSC's image and hampering work in the post-16 sector. A huge management retraining programme is now under way.
This week, he spelled out his personal commitment to reduce red tape. "It is time to step up a gear. We will be using plain, clear English to ensure that we are understood by everyone.
"We will work tirelessly with our partner organisations, particularly those of us on the Skills Alliance (a partnership of business and colleges aimed at improving training) to crack data-sharing issues for good. These are all close to my heart."
The bureaucracy report, to be published at the annual conference of the Association of Colleges next week, calls for even more radical measures to reduce the information burden on colleges.
A central recommendation, singled out in the foreword by Sir George Sweeney, the task force chairman, is for a radical reform of the inspectorate, a proposal first revealed in September.
"The time is right to look at whether there should be one inspectorate, and for an overhaul of inspections," he says. "The task force has discussed concerns that bureaucracy appears rooted in procedures and practices rather than legislation.
"Could it be best dealt with through the creation of a single inspectorate or the adoption of a common framework across all post-16 providers?"
Sir George said: "All organisations need to look at the bureaucracy implications of existing and new policies."
The task force, in its interim report last autumn, called for the frequency and scope of monitoring, audit and inspection to be cut, with a new six-year inspection cycle. A subsequent concordat between the Adult Learning Inspectorate, the Office for Standards in Education, the LSC and Jobcentre Plus pledged to simplify data exchange, bureaucracy, inspection programmes and strategy.
But the new report still voices concern. "Apart from minor changes to the inspection process, the impact of this cross-agency working will not be felt immediately by those teaching and managing in the FE sector."
John Brennan, chief executive of the AoC, said: "There are no signs of a decrease, rather the reverse. The new funding regime introduced by the LSC this year has increased bureaucracy, as has the processes devised to monitor it and the new targets."
Sir George warned that colleges could not wait for red-tape cuts "to be done to them". The report revealed a high level of cynicism within FE towards bureaucracy-cutting measures, he said.
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