LSIS prepares to hand over the baton

LSIS prepares to hand over the baton

The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) has published a report exploring the legacy it will leave when it closes at the end of next month.

The document, A Legacy of Learning, aimed to find out what should be retained and built on when the organisation hands over to the Education and Training Foundation (ETF — formerly the FE Guild), due to launch August 1, led by interim chief executive Sir Geoff Hall.

Based on consultation with the sector, the research said LSIS reached 97 per cent of FE colleges, 58 per cent of independent learning providers, 76 per cent of independent specialist colleges and 74 per cent of sixth-form colleges.

And 60,000 in the sector went online to access its recent guidance on safeguarding, “reflecting the extent to which LSIS became a trusted source of help and support”, the report said.

But it also revealed that some principals found the service “excessive”, report author Ian Nash told FE Week.

“One principal told me the problem . . . was that it tried to be all things to all people. There were concerns that LSIS grants were difficult to manage, they generated a lot of bureaucracy,” he said.

“One told me ‘I do resent top-slicing my budget to run any organisation like this — including the guild’.”

But there was a “strong feeling” LSIS could have been reformed and remodelled to what the guild might become, Mr Nash added, although that would have taken “a lot of work”.

At the top of everyone’s feedback was the desire to keep teaching and learning coaches, developments in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths); measures to tackle NEETs (young people not in education, employment or training); action research; equality and diversity measures; and take forward LSIS’s  legacy of better leadership of learning.

The report revealed that many saw the service’s role as an “honest broker” and “critical friend”, supporting 1,158 UK providers between August and December 2012, and 1,044 from January to April this year.

Rob Wye, LSIS chief executive, said: “The message you are sending us is that LSIS was effective in bringing the sector together as a community.”

Dame Ruth Silver, LSIS chair, said the findings showed how LSIS had “led the way” over the past five years with initiatives to enhance the performance of FE and skills providers.

“The gains made amount to a legacy that will not be lost,” she said.

“We can all be justifiably proud of what we have achieved . . . We have empowered practitioners to improve teaching and learning and developed leadership, instilling new confidence and professionalism throughout.”

Some of the sector welcomed the findings. However, a spokesperson for the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said: “LSIS hasn’t always paid enough attention to those outside colleges, although this did improve latterly. More recently it has started to work much more closely with and through sector bodies such as AELP.  We think that this is an approach that has worked well and it should continue under the ETF.”

Lynne Sedgmore, chief executive of the 157 Group, said: “The hard work and commitment of all LSIS staff has been appreciated and we wish them every success in the future. We hope the ETF will welcome this report and use it to build on going forward.”

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock first announced proposals for a guild last October.

In a letter seen by FE Week last November, Susan Pember, former director of FE and skills investment at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, told Dame Ruth: “The new organisation will assume responsibility for many of the broad areas of activity currently undertaken by LSIS.”