NIACE welcomes new proposals for the reform of FE

2 December 2011

NIACE welcomes the publication of New Challenges, New Chances, launched on Thursday 1 December 2011 by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). It sets out a strong vision for adult education with learners at the heart of a system which delivers economic and social renewal for individuals, families and communities.

NIACE is particularly pleased that two independent inquiries that it led – on literacy, chaired by Lord Boswell and on colleges, chaired by Baroness Sharp – have had a major impact with many of their recommendations having been heard and adopted.

Areas of particular interest to NIACE in the New Challenges, New Chances report include:

  • the helpful commitment to policy stability and funding certainty, especially at a time when funding is dropping and the number of adults who are learning is falling;
  • the breadth of the vision and funding, from community learning and basic skills through to high quality Apprenticeships and access to Higher Education;
  • the emphasis in the Adult Community Learning vision on the many positive social, community, personal as well as economic benefits of learning. NIACE will work with BIS to ensure other Government Departments recognise and support these benefits in both policy and funding;
  • the recognition that the introduction of Level 3 loans will require careful implementation and monitoring to ensure that some adults are not disadvantaged. NIACE will support the Equality Impact Assessment process to be a transparent and developmental activity;
  • the inclusive approach of the new National Careers Service with guidance available to adults of all ages and stages. NIACE expects that the information, advice and guidance on offer will cover all types of provision to all kinds of learners;
  • the welcome focus on those people in our society who are struggling with literacy and numeracy and the acceptance of the recommendations in the NIACE-led Boswell Adult Literacy Inquiry;
  • the acceptance of the recommendations in the NIACE-supported Sharp Inquiry, supporting colleges to be more outwardly accountable to their communities; and
  • the review of adult learning and vocational pedagogy which NIACE will support to ensure that it looks across the sector at all forms of adult learning.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“There is a compelling vision of social and economic renewal and many important steps being taken across the board in New Challenges, New Chances. We are delighted that the considered work and strong recommendations we made in recent inquiries are making their way into policy. However, there’s still a long way to go regarding basic skills, with the recent Skills for Life Survey reporting that one in six adults struggle with literacy and one in four have numeracy difficulties. We are also worried about the reductions in funding, because the loss of learning opportunities impacts on some groups of adults more than others. Where that is happening, NIACE will work strenuously with the sector and with Government to address inequality and exclusion. What we will turn our attention to now is the implementation issues, doing our part to support more adults to be able to participate in and benefit from learning.”

“Overall there is much to welcome in this report especially the broad vision, the focus on learners shaping the system and the focus on those people who need basic maths and English. NIACE looks forward to working with learners, the sector and government to make this work in practice.”