Skills conditionality is, if anything, a greater threat to classroom-based adult learning than the removal of fee remission for those poor benighted souls on “inactive” benefits.

As the outline of the programme stands at the moment, Department for Work and Pension (DWP) staff appear to be able to tell us what classes to run and when and for how long, despite the fact that we won’t see an additional penny for these learners.

Learners who, inevitably, are the most disaffected and unwilling, and who will cause a massive dent in college success rates because they are forced to attend on pain of losing their meagre benefits.

And yet the AoC as well as the Skills Funding Agency suggest that we should go along with DWP’s plans and, more significantly, grass up people with incredibly difficult home lives who might miss a class or two of something that they don’t want to be at in the first place.

The inevitable shower of paperwork (still under discussion, of course, god forbid that they could come up with a reasonable structure for implementing a policy before it happens) that will ensue from dealing with these learners would be acceptable if there was a contract (or indeed some money) that stipulated what service was to be provided and with what targets.

god forbid that they could come up with a reasonable structure for implementing a policy before it happens”

 To have it agreed on nods and winks between Job Centre Plus staff in fear of losing their own jobs and providers desperate not to upset a powerful governmental body (and worried about hitting targets now their learners on Income Support can’t afford to attend) seems bizarre at best.

And that’s before we get to the problem of the people who really do want to get a qualification to increase their job prospects.  If it’s something the under resourced, target driven JCP staff member doesn’t see as getting this punter off their books as quickly as possible, chances are they’ll get sent on a meaningless but mandatory two week Job Skills programme, led by some behemothic private training provider right in the middle of their high quality, Ofsted approved real actual qualification that might lead them to actually improve their life.

But now that’s all under threat because of skills conditionality. Retraining is effectively verboten because if you go to the job centre and say you’ve worked in a call centre but really want to be a plumber or a florist or an underwater basket weaver, you will not get the chance to complete your qualification, you’ll be sent off to do a bit of extra call centre training and then to the first call centre job that comes up, and damn what your dreams and hopes are for a better life, because these people have targets that they must hit. See an investigation by the Guardian Newspaper here:

There really is no reason for providers to help DWP on this divisive, unhelpful, unproductive programme.  Even from an entirely selfish point of view, it will cost colleges more money to deliver, increase bureaucracy and hit our success rates, and that’s before we get to the life chances of our learners which will be fundamentally stunted by this ill-conceived policy.


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