Sustaining our Future – maybe

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

The Learning & Skills Improvement Service has just published a new draft of its paper:

Sustaining our Future: a framework for moving towards a sustainable learning and skills sector

This begins:

The learning and skills sector is increasingly aware of the relevance of sustainable development to all aspects of the work, including leadership, teaching and learning, operations and partnerships.  Increasing focus on localism and skills for a low carbon society, alongside reforms to the Ofsted Common Inspection Framework, point to an increasing need to focus on sustainability across the learning and skills sector.  This enabling Framework for sustainable development has been developed to support providers and strategic bodies to build on current practice, to support sustainable development practice and to bring collective strength and coherence to provider and cross-sector developments.  The Framework will join up and co-ordinate the strategies and activities of sector bodies in helping providers to achieve real change in this area.  LSIS has taken responsibility for developing the Framework, in partnership and consultation with providers and partners.

Odd, then, that LSIS seems to have buried this text in an unmarked grave somewhere on its website – hence my link, above, to the UCU.

I have, at the 4th time of asking, managed to get through this turgid tome from front to back at one sitting, and do wish I could recommend it to you as a great read: but I cannot.  It is poorly written, and has left me with that uneasy feeling that this is, in part, because of a lack of understanding.   Here are just a few of my concerns:

1. The vision statement is so limited: "a learning and skills sector which maximises and mainstreams environmental, economic and social sustainability".   Dear me!   Why doesn't the vision say what will result from all this "maximising & mainstreaming" as it is these outcomes that society at large is looking for.  This is a confusion of means and ends.

2. Although the paper is about sustainable development, readers have to go to an appendix to see what, and how, LSIS thinks about this.  And when you get there, you find tired old Brundtland and then this: "This broad definition does not go very far in helping us to understand what the agenda really means for us.  Commonly, sustainable development is understood in the context of economic, social and environmental needs and considerations that our thinking and actions should take into account, and the economic, social and environmental impacts that such thinking and actions can have".

I'm still trying to understand what this last sentence means.  Anyway, why aren't there an arresting few words on the front page that  conveys meaning, challenge and urgency – and without going on about the parts:  "economic, social and environmental" rather than the whole?  If the point is to engage readers whose awareness is limited, something punchier seems essential.

3. We are told on page 10 that "ESD is learning that supports sustainable development".  Is it?  This reinforces a view that suffuses the whole paper that sustainable development is something 'out there'.  Something, for example, which can be "linked to" and "supported", and which you can "be influenced by", and "embed".  Such reification won't help either understanding or internalisation.

4. I could find no understanding that, inevitably, controversy and contention are sustainable development's camp followers, and that there will be value clashes.

It's not all bad, of course – but don't take my word for that!  It's just that it's so disappointing, particularly as the "learning and skills sector", which is so important to "all our futures", has been so poorly served up to now compared to schools and HE.

Posted in: Comment, New Publications


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response