Future of LSIS in doubt as FE Guild role emerges

The future of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) is in doubt with plans for its role to be taken up by the FE Guild, FE Week can exclusively reveal.

A spokesperson for LSIS said the “transition” should be completed by the end of July next year. It is understood the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) wants the guild up and running the following month.

Last month, FE Minister Matthew Hancock announced that the Association of Colleges (AoC) and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) had won government approval to “take forward” proposals for the guild – a single body to set professional standards and codes of behaviour, as well as develop qualifications.

BIS is providing the AoC, as the lead body for the guild proposals, with £360,000 of funding until March.

In a letter seen by FE Week, Susan Pember, director of FE and skills investment at BIS, told LSIS chair Dame Ruth Silver: “The new guild organisation will assume responsibility for many of the broad areas of activity currently undertaken by LSIS, albeit probably in a different form.

“This clearly calls into question the future of LSIS as a separate entity and has major implications for its current staff.”

The LSIS spokesperson said: “Funding has now been agreed for the partnership to develop its plans and clarify how the guild will work and the scope of its activities.

“It is anticipated there will be consultation about the guild with the sector in the new year, which will clarify the implications for LSIS, with the aim of implementation of the transition by August 2013.”

LSIS was formed in October 2008 after a merger between the Centre for Excellence in Leadership and the Quality Improvement Agency.

A spokesperson for AELP and AoC said: “We have been charged with working with partners to establish an FE Guild. That process will begin with a comprehensive consultation of the sector to define the role of the guild. The results of that consultation will inform implications for other sector bodies.”

It would then be up to the sector to decide on the “best” employer-led contribution the guild could make to the “continued improvement of teaching, learning and governance”.

Ms Pember’s letter is the latest in a series of blows for LSIS staff. It was tasked with supporting and improving achievement in the FE and skills sector in England but has faced year-on-year government cuts.

In 2009, Dame Ruth announced that due to “severe funding pressures” it should be led by someone from the sector “steeped in current professional practice”. The then chief executive, Roger McClure, immediately stepped down.

Two years ago its budget was slashed from £145m to £65m. More cuts followed in June last year when it was announced that 30 per cent of the organisation’s core staff would lose their jobs.

David Hughes, chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, was this month appointed as chair of a steering group for the new guild.