The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is failing in its duty to drive the reform of further education, according to the CBI.
In a new report, the business lobby group says the LSC is not using its powers to improve the diversity of education provision.
The CBI said it supported the government’s drive to reform further education and make greater use of competition to improve standards, but was concerned that the LSC was not yet fulfilling its role to implement this on the ground.
The government’s White Paper on further education, Raising Skills, states that the LSC has a duty to stop commissioning inadequate provision by 2008.
Dr Neil Bentley, CBI director of public services, called on the LSC to act to challenge poorly performing and ‘coasting’ further education provision – courses which are performing adequately and are not improving – by using its commissioning powers to encourage a wider range of providers and give students and employers greater choice.
The CBI’s report, Further Skills for Success: Competition delivers for learners, argues that reformed commissioning arrangements and driving increased competition among service providers would act as a major impetus to increase colleges’ responsiveness to learner and employer needs.
It says that although existing legislation gives the LSC freedom to innovate, progress has been far too slow.
“We need well-educated and well-trained employees, so we cannot have a system of further education that spends £5bn a year, yet allows sub-standard courses to continue, and does not engage with employers to establish their needs,” Bentley said. “It is not fair on the students or the taxpayer.
“The LSC is going to need to reform itself very quickly if it is to succeed in delivering what the government is asking of it – we need assurances that it is capable of this,” he said. “There are excellent examples of colleges and private providers who are responsive to employer needs, and this good practice must be extended.”