It’s time for the sector to influence FE & Skills policy

Dear FE & Skills colleagues

The misguided rhetoric that the FE & Skills system is ‘in a mess’ is too easily used by those in positions of influence to further their own personal political ideology.



Publication: The FE & Skills System: A study by The Policy Consortium
Launch event: 26 April, 2018; 11:00 to 13:00, with refreshment and registration from 10:30
Venue: Campaign for Learning, 24 Greencoat Place, Westminster, SW1P 1RD


  • Gordon Marsden Shadow Minister for Higher and Further Education and Skills
  • Dr Catherine Haddon Senior Fellow, Institute for Government
  • Tony Davis Policy Consortium and Director, Centre for Creative Quality Improvement

Over the past year, the Policy Consortium has conducted a study with the following question at its centre:

Have FE & Skills policy makers and key stakeholders made it easier or harder for providers to produce outstanding outcomes for all learners?

For every answer, whether positive or negative, we asked respondents to our survey to identify the policy and/or procedural decision at its root. This has given our study a great and very positive clarity. The study leads to 23 recommendations that if addressed would enable the creation of a sector in which all policy makers, key stakeholders and providers worked together to produce the very best education environment for our learners.

In our launch event, the speech by Tony Davis will set out the study’s main findings and recommendations – particularly for Government, ESFA, Ofsted and Ofqual. The Right Honourable Gordon Marsden, Shadow Minister for Higher and Further Education and Skills, will then set out his view of our sector’s challenges. And finally, Dr Catherine Haddon, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Government, will set out the mechanisms by which policy reform is achieved.

These presentations are intended to prepare participants for the main part of the event – delegate discussions. Each group will be chaired by an expert from the sector. This will provide a platform for delegates to say how they feel the Policy Consortium can be used to drive forward the changes the sector has asked for. It will also help delegates decide how best to use their own networks and the study’s findings to achieve the sustainable environment we require for systemic success – rather than the systemic failure we currently endure.

All delegates will receive a bound copy and access to an electronic version of this evidence-based study to be used to support them in their own discussions and dissemination.

We warmly invite you to join us at this important event. Places are strictly limited and allocated on a first-come basis. If you would like to be part of the solution, please register for a place by clicking the link or copying it into your browser.

Best wishes

Tony Davis

The sector’s response to the study

‘This study of the FE and Skills System conducted by The Policy Consortium, should be required reading for Ministers, politicians, officials, policy makers, practitioners and those interested in the FE system. I’d suggest that whatever your role in the system, you read it and contribute to the post launch debate and discussion.’

Mike Hopkins, Principal, Sussex Downs College

‘This is an excellent piece of work, which provides a view of the problems identified in the IFG’s [Institute for Government] All Change report from the other end of the telescope (i.e. it demonstrates how the policy process fails practitioners and the learners they are working with). The remorseless politicisation of education and training policy has been a major problem, and it is being compounded by the mistaken belief on the part of ministers that they are there to act as hands-on micro-managers of policy design and implementation within institutions they have little knowledge or understanding of. The results of these developments have been predictably dire. In essence, FE finds itself trapped in an endless policy loop, whereby the consequences of failed government ‘reforms’ and poor funding decisions create an air of crisis within the sector, that then justifies further government intervention and ‘reform’ to address this crisis. Unless policy makers can learn to step back, reflect, slow down, and listen to practitioners, this loop cannot be broken.’

Professor Ewart Keep, Director, Centre on Skills, Knowledge & Organisational Performance, Department of Education, Oxford University

‘This study continues the excellent work of City & Guilds’ Sense & Instability reports in highlighting the challenges that a state of perpetual revolution brings to the skills landscape.’

Oliver Newton, Director of Policy & Research, Edge Foundation

‘This is a well-researched report with very clear messages for all involved in the FE and Skills landscape. Two themes emerge for me:  the need for policy initiatives to be evidence based and properly tested before implementation, and the difficulties caused by the underfunding of the sector when introducing any new policies. The key messages around the English and maths funding condition are clear, and there is a comprehensive set of recommendations which deserves careful consideration by all interested parties.’

Alison Birkinshaw, Principal, York College


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