AELP feels compelled to respond to one particular recommendation in ‘The English College of the Future’ report published on 18 November 2020. The commission behind the report called for “introducing a legal duty on colleges to establish networks across appropriate economic geographies – which must be matched by a duty on all other post-16 education providers – to collaborate in the interests of students, communities and the economy”.
Association of Employment and Learning Providers managing director Jane Hickie said:
“A great deal of collaboration already goes on at local level and long may it continue. What the FE and skills system must be about is employer and learner choice and the statute book has no place in trying to restrict that choice. University choices aren’t restricted and nearly all parents have a choice over schools within their catchment areas. Therefore why should local employers and learners be treated any differently for FE and skills?
“We know why the report refers to ‘nugatory competition’ but the meaning of nugatory is worthless or unimportant. Policymakers should remember however that independent training providers don’t receive grant funding and only get paid for what they deliver, and they deliver what their employers and learners believe is the best provision for them locally. There are 10 years of successive government and independent surveys that show they are extremely happy with the customised service they are receiving. It would be a very backward step if the FE white paper and legislation started to interfere in the choices that employers and learners can make.”