Tories pledge to cut quangos

20th November 2009 at 00:00
Education spokesman promises to reduce number to three

The conservatives want to slash the number of further education quangos to just three as part of their plans to give colleges more freedom.

David Willetts, shadow universities minister, was expected to use his speech to the Association of Colleges conference to outline how Tory plans for FE would radically simplify the funding and oversight of colleges.

He said: "We want to end a funding system that requires efforts to comply with central management, rather than serving the needs of learners. Our ultimate goal is to have one funding body, one regulatory body and one improvement body."

Estimates of the number of organisations overseeing FE vary, but a conservative assessment by Sir Andrew Foster in his 2005 review of colleges put the number at 17.

The Conservatives were also expected to unveil their own plans to put more information about the quality of courses in the hands of learners, competing with the Government's own intention to label courses with details of success rates and chances of gaining employment.

Their reinvention of the old Further Education Funding Council for England is expected to involve colleges themselves planning how many places they expect to fill each year and then being held to account for how much they deliver.

Mr Willetts said the Government's plans for simplifying further education, outlined in its skills strategy, barely scratched the surface of what needed to be done.

Many of the 30 further education organisations that the Government plans to cull are either sector skills councils or regional bodies of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

Mr Willetts said: "I think that is a fake figure. Now with regional development agencies, we will have a new regional structure to replace the LSC. Sector skills councils should be for the industry to decide, not Government."

Local authority funding of post-16 provision would increase the complexity, he suggested, referring to a principal he had met who had students from 17 different councils.

However, the Government has pledged that colleges and training providers will only need to deal with one local authority, regardless of where students live.

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