The 2013 Ofsted annual report on the further education and skills sector (available here) has little to say about sustainability. It’s a gloomy, and really rather shocking, read. This is from the Executive Summary:
2. … there is still too much provision that is not responsive to local employment needs. This provision is therefore inappropriate for young people, regardless of the quality of teaching.
In most regions, many providers struggle to understand the priorities or the business opportunities in their area. There is currently no structure, accountability measure or system of incentives to ensure that FE and skills provision is adapted to local economic and social needs. Our case study on the City of Bristol on page 18 of this report exemplifies what goes wrong at a local level when lines of accountability are opaque. If the government is committed to raising employment through better skills and to secure economic competitiveness, it will need to fill this gap in strategic accountability urgently.
3. Training providers need to ensure that vocational provision is better matched to the needs of local businesses and communities.
Over the next year, we will be looking closely at the appropriateness of provision in meeting local needs and the early impact of government reforms in this area. This will include the provision of English and mathematics, where the quality of current provision is weak.
7. Far too many young people from poorer backgrounds fail to achieve in their post-16 destination and drop out of education, employment or training.
A disproportionate number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds go into the FE sector. In schools, there is an increasing focus on the achievement of this group of children, influenced by national incentives such as the pupil premium. In the FE and skills sector, it is too often the case that managers and staff do not know who these young people are or what provision and support would be most appropriate for them. The best providers take steps to overcome this, but the regulations that govern the transfer of information from schools are burdensome and bureaucratic.
On a brighter note, here’s a comment on what happens in Walsall:
Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council’s Adult and Community College placed exemplary focus on sustainability that benefited learners, the college and the community through very good use of resources. The quality of learners’ work was exceptional and showed their considerable progress throughout their programmes.
… about which the College Principal said:
‘Know your patch, and be clear that is the patch you serve. Have a good understanding of your context: the demography, the social and financial challenges, and development needs... Make sure you have brilliant teachers... It is leaders’ responsibility to remove obstacles to great teaching; to get the best performance from teachers, and to be honest if performance is not up to standard... Everyone contributes to aims of the college, whatever their role; the whole college makes the difference.’
So, there is life and hope, ...