Stewart Segal explains the important role that he thinks independent learning providers (ILPs) should play in upcoming post-16 education and training area reviews.

The AELP recognises that the area reviews launched by the Department for Business, Innovation and Sklls are principally focused on the future provision of FE colleges.

The current policy environment for all training providers is also very tough with reducing budgets and reducing rates of funding.

The area review must be a transparent and open process and ensur

e that all stakeholders can input to the discussions.

The learners and employers are the beneficiaries of any training and it is their needs that must drive any decisions.

In every local area of the UK, ILPs are an essential part of the complex skills and employability sector.

They deliver programmes with direct contracts from government as well as working with colleges as subcontractors to deliver demand led provision.

It is vital that this is taken into account in any review.

In most areas, ILPs deliver the majority of provision when you look across the employment and skills sectors, so any solutions must not protect or favour any one type of institution. Choice for the customer is key.

Across the country, the majority of ILPs work together within a local provider network.

This will involve national training providers that deliver locally as well smaller local providers and colleges.

It is important that these networks are able to make an effective input to these reviews.

The process and extent of the input will vary from area to area but for the large urban area reviews, the local network will have already been in contact.

The AELP will work closely with the local provider networks to ensure that there is the necessary input and that ITPs are fully aware of the review discussions.

In most areas, ILPs deliver the majority of provision when you look across the employment and skills sectors, so any solutions must not protect or favour any one type of institution

The review guidelines state that “there may be a need for early consultation with key counterparties of colleges who may have an interest in the outcome of area reviews. We would expect this matter to be considered as necessary by colleges and the local steering group”.

It may well include subcontractors of the colleges — so mostly ILPs, and other interested parties.

The guidelines issued by BIS to cover these reviews has a foreword by the Skills Minister who says that he would “encourage everyone to engage fully’ in this review process”.

The ILPs in each are very willing to engage and the local network and AELP as the national representatives will help provide the necessary input through all stages.

The guidance also says that “we are putting in place arrangements to ensure that there is effective engagement with the independent provider network, including formal arrangements for discussion with representative bodies including AELP”.

We will continue to discuss this with BIS to ensure that there is a formal route through the consultation process.

In particular, we would highlight three stages.

Firstly, for the initial review, the steering groups will need an accurate picture of existing provision in their areas.

The baseline information must be accurate and reflect the reality of the complexity of the situation, and ILPs and their representative bodies must have an opportunity to contribute to this baseline data and comment once it is collated.

Then for the analytical phase, once the reviews start to look at the data, they must be open to input from all stakeholders.

The analysis stage must be transparent and take into account the impact of any changes on all providers and all customers.

Thirdly, when it comes to recommendations on future actions, they must ensure that there is an impact review on all providers and customers — not just on the institutions (i.e. colleges) that have been party to the review.

There must be an opportunity for stakeholders to respond to any recommendations before they are implemented particularly if there may be impact on all providers.

The recommendations should respect the principle that all providers should be treated equally and any resources applied should follow the needs of the customers not just the needs of the institutions.