Sector's beauty must flourish

11th September 2009 at 01:00

It's not often one has the pleasure of threading the different pieces in FE Focus together like chapters in a story, but your edition of August 14 read to me like a classic novel, filled with duelling camps and a forlorn central character in search of an identity. All that and our very particular brand of hero driving a forklift truck.

Let's get this straight: the further education system is everybody's. It doesn't, won't and can't exist to do one thing, and every group under the sun will have a passionate interest in making it theirs. The fact that it stubbornly remains everybody's is not a weakness; our central character is not promiscuous or fey, just equitable.

So it won't yield to a single line of demand. Policy tugs at our heartstrings, funding demands our attention, powerful new needs in society and the economy constantly woo the sector, but it is forever plural and diverse and must be protected as such.

It is essential, though, that it is known for its brilliance and beauty - or no one will be interested. Our standards can never be good enough and that's where the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) and our single report stand ("LSIS state-of-sector annual report to stop short of naming and shaming"). The intention is to bring together as one the multitude of independent reports on the quality of our sector's work so that we can target the precious combined resources of LSIS and the sector in ways that make a difference, in ways no longer routine.

Never before has the sector enjoyed the opportunity to hear its success extolled from a single, non-partisan voice, intent only on the progress of all providers together. Never before have we had the opportunity to reflect as a sector on the impact of policy, funding and governance in one place, nor to describe how we will improve and innovate once more.

For me, this is the chance for the sector to celebrate and acquire greatness in our fast-improving world. I want to make sure we know we're grabbing a big opportunity and can make the truth better than rumour.

LSIS's Strategic Ambitions report tells how it will be done.

Ruth Silver, Chair, Learning and Skills Improvement Service.

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