Britain's Further Education system is a disgrace. Under the aegis of the Learning and Skills Council we taxpayers shell out £9bn pa on the flimsy premise that our FE colleges will "close our skills gap"- training the manpower to staff the businesses to compete in the global economy.
But as we blogged previously, the reality is that most businesses prefer to arrange their own training even though it costs them £20bn pa of their own money. That's because "publicly funded training lacks relevance and flexibility to companies’ training needs", is costly for what it is, and college staff are seen as "academics rather than business-focused trainers".
Now the Public Accounts Committee has probed the overall FE management stucture and found a bureaucratic nightmare. Main points:
- 500 (yes 500) separate organisations involved in strategy and delivery: "some 400 colleges, 47 local Learning and Skills Councils, nine Regional Development Agencies, nine Regional Skills Partnerships and 25 Sector Skill Councils."
- At least 7,000 governors, council-members and other assorted chiefs.
- Multiplicity of separate inspection regimes: "Adult Learning Inspectorate...Ofsted... the Learning and Skills Council’s assurance team...a separate review and compliance examination...plus an annual external audit."
No wonder the PAC reckons 29% of colleges have "unsatisfactory self-assessment schemes"- ie they've completely lost track of what they're supposed to be doing- and 35 colleges are so bad they need to be closed down forthwith.
The entire sector is a shambles and the conclusion remains the same: privatisation. Skills training should be left to the market, both ensuring the right business focus and saving us taxpayers £9bn pa.
Pic: Hogarth The Idle Apprentice