Rocky road for FE as heads go

April 25, 2003

Further education's two most prominent and influential organisations face significant challenges in the coming year as their chief executives stand down.

John Harwood, chief executive of the Learning and Skills Council since its formation three years ago, announced at the weekend that he was to retire in September. His departure comes as the LSC gears up to introduce sweeping changes in the funding and regulation of post-16 education and training.

The proposed changes have been strongly criticised by John Brennan, who will take over from David Gibson as chief executive of the Association of Colleges.

Dr Brennan, currently the AoC's director of further education development, said this week that his first priority would be attempting to iron out potential pitfalls in the LSC's plans to implement the government's Success for All further education strategy.

In its response to the plans, the AoC has warned that introducing a "multitude" of performance targets linked to funding could put colleges into a downward spiral.

Talks between the LSC and the AoC have yet to produce any changes to the strategy, scheduled to take effect from August.

The government's final skills strategy, expected to be launched in June, will present another set of challenges and could bring further changes in funding. The AoC is working on an analysis of the implications.

Dr Brennan said it had become clear that despite a generous package for further education in the last funding round, there was still a significant gap between the government's plans for the sector and the resources it was prepared to release.

The AoC said that the LSC needed to tackle apparent problems in the relationship between its central body and 47 local LSCs.

Mr Harwood, whose successor has yet to be announced, said he would be leaving the LSC "with the satisfaction of knowing that we have already demonstrated significant progress and achievement". He added: "We have now seen a massive increase in the resources available to the sector. They are certainly needed. The task is to use them to best effect over the next ten years."

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