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Towards a social agenda

Suddenly community groups and charities have an important part to play in implementing government policy. On social inclusion, for instance. But are they ready for such work? And does it fall to FE to fill the training gaps? Martin Whittaker reports

We have a community education programme that is about access for the disadvantaged. There is a consultative group that involves the voluntary sector - agencies who meet with us to consult and shape the provision.

We also have a similar arrangement with the voluntary sector. We work with the Salvation Army, for example, using their facilities to get outreach venues for working with disadvantaged groups.

There has been criticism that colleges are not responsive enoug, but really that's a funding council problem rather than a college problem.

We need more flexibility to provide funding to get into those communities and work with the voluntary sector. I think the Learning and Skills Council will bring more flexibil-ity. The training and enterprise councils had a local initiative fund. What the Tecs did was work with employers, particularly on new initiatives, supporting economic partnerships or training workforces. Now that pot of money is being created as an official resource for the LSC. My guess is that given the Government of the day, there'll be a strong steer in the direction of the social agenda.

Gary Williams is the principal of Weston College, North Somerset

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