Colleges code revamp wins Lady Sharp approval

A revised guide on government measures to help colleges run courses in response to local employment and skills needs has won the approval of Lady Sharp.

It comes just over a month after she accused the Skills Funding Agency of misinterpreting her suggestions for the Innovation Code, “wrapping it up in precisely the sort of restrictions that we were trying to get away from”.

But Lady Sharp, the Liberal Democrats’ education spokesperson in the House of Lords, said the agency’s latest advice on using the code was a “major improvement…and really begins to give the flexibility we were asking for”.

She said: “I am particularly pleased to see the range of examples given of the likely scope for use of the code — supporting employment and progression in employment, developing specific skills for specific sectors, reskilling and upskilling, preparation for and progress within an apprenticeship, and to support entrepreneurship.

“The main condition is that there should not be a qualification that exactly meets these needs. It doesn’t have to be, at least initially, an accredited qualification, priority being to help get people into work and develop the qualification later.”

The code was a key element of recommendations that emerged last year from the Colleges in their Communities Inquiry, chaired by Lady Sharp.

However, following her criticism the code had not been flexible enough, the agency this month revised its guidance.

 I’m delighted the Skills Funding Agency has responded to earlier criticisms”

“We’ve listened to feedback from the sector and in response we’ve published revised guidance, in partnership with the Association of Colleges and the Association of Employers and Learning Providers,” said agency chief executive Kim Thorneywork.

“Our goal is really to make sure that providers have as much scope as possible to deliver the mix of learning and skills training that is the right fit for their local area.”
She added: “We know that if we are to put the FE system in the hands of the sector, and let them use their professional judgement to give learners and employers what they want, there won’t always be a package of learning or skills training that an individual might need.

“So we need to do all we can to support the offer, so that FE is accountable to local people. And we must do more to support those out of work to gain the skills to compete in long-term sustainable employment.

“And this is where the Innovation Code comes into its own.

“It allows a college or training organisation to deliver the provision that is needed in their area, without having to wait for a new qualification to be developed — a true ‘rapid response vehicle’.”

Lady Sharp said: “This is a major improvement on the agency’s earlier version and really begins to give the flexibility we were asking for.

“The new code does seem to give the two things we were looking for — flexibility and meeting local needs. I’m delighted the agency has responded to earlier criticisms and come up with something so much more positive.”