8th January 2016 at 00:00
Something to boast about?

Clear as mud

Fantastic news: the Skills Funding Agency is making “great progress in developing a simplified funding system”. Hooray! And can anyone guess which organisation gleefully broke this news? It was the, err, Skills Funding Agency (SFA), funnily enough.

This grand conclusion is a bit of a stretch from the responses to the SFA’s College and Training Organisation Survey 2015 (one of the undoubted highlights of the FE calendar).

To be fair, the results are pretty positive on the whole. The SFA’s “ability to communicate free of jargon and in plain English” received an approval rating of 91 per cent. But the findings seem to jar somewhat with paragraph that follows: “In terms of our core function, more than 84 per cent of respondents gave a positive approval rating to our effectiveness in funding FE skills training. Although this represents a slight decrease from the 87 per cent of respondents in last year’s survey, it is equivalent in real terms given the reduced number of respondents.” A novel attempt to disguise a dropping approval rating this may be; plain English it most certainly is not.

And FErret could barely contain his mirth when he read: “Nearly 67 per cent approved of the ease with which they can find information on our website.” Given that the abomination that is the gov.uk website – about as useful as a chocolate teapot, as easy to navigate as a tube map drawn by a colour-blind toddler and as enjoyable to use as a home enema kit – FErret can only presume that the area reviews must have driven two-thirds of the respondents to drink before they tackled the survey.

But spare a thought for the poor old National Careers Service (NCS): a mere 37 per cent of respondents “approved of its ability to engage organisations to ensure learners have access”.

This suggests, as the survey report bluntly puts it, some “issues around the visibility of the service, awareness of its impact, and that partners fully understand the role and value of the National Careers Service”. Happy new year, NCS.

Existential exploration

Around the same time as the SFA’s survey was published, there came a flurry of reports based on the results of the Civil Service People Survey 2015. And as well as the usual guff about “organisational objectives and purpose” and “leadership and managing change”, the 2015 report contains with some surprisingly searching questions for the beleaguered employees of Whitehall.

“Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?” they were asked. Ofsted staff are apparently 66 per cent satisfied (whatever that means), with the figure dropping to 62 per cent over at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Things then get a bit more existential, with the survey asking: “Overall, to what extent do you feel that the things you do in your life are worthwhile?” Crikey (66 per cent at Ofsted, 62 per cent at BIS, in case you’re interested).

The only surprise in the findings from BIS is the slight drop in the number of employees who agree with the statement: “I have a clear understanding of the department’s objectives”. Come on now guys, it really isn’t that difficult. Repeat after me: “Lots of apprenticeships – good; lots of colleges – bad.”

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