£7bn 363 colleges 4.2m learners 263,257 staff

The Glacial Age

Most people think of the coming Age of Austerity, but those cheery people in the Audit Commission prefer to prepare us for a Glacial Age.

The Audit Commission knows that “all public bodies face a difficult and testing future” , that after the election financial resources could fall sharply, and  for some the strains this imposes could be too intense.In their experience, problems with money can be a symbol of wider difficulties

So they look at what organisations can do to help themselves prepare for the Glacial Age.

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February 9, 2010 Posted by | austerity funding, SMART goals | , , | Leave a comment

Let’s keep it simple please

We do need to get smarter at running further education colleges, but lets keep it simple please.

I have been looking at the “Expert Advice” from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills [UKCES is the outcome from the Leitch report] on how to “build a more strategic, agile and labour-market led employment and skills system” from Autumn 2009

Much of it is about how UKCES sees that we should “simplify”  funding, qualifications etc , but some of their proposals desperately need to go through the reality wringer.
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January 18, 2010 Posted by | austerity funding, SMART goals | , , , , | Leave a comment

Spend to Save

I got off the train at Brentwood, and set off into the gloom to the very far end of the car park. It was only when I swung my bag from one hand to the other to get my car keys out, that I realised I was lugging a carrier bag of plants from the Caledonian Road  market  and not my suitcase which was where I had left it, in the overhead rack., and disappearing off to Southend-on-Sea. Where it disappeared.

I didn’t lose much of any great value. However, my toilet bag had a pair of scissors which always seemed just right the right shape for my toes, and the family pair which I will have to use now are far too fiddly. Other stuff is proving remarkably difficult to replace – my old razor isn’t made any more, so I bought a wind-up rechargeable one which is OK, but!

No doubt I will get used to the replacements, and my toe nails and sideburns will be as well-groomed as they were before, or even better, but it isn’t until things are gone that you realise their value.

This week has seen a cluster of stories about organisations having to face up to the possibility that they may have to leave suitcases of money on the government’s train as it speeds off towards Deficit-on-Sea

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January 15, 2010 Posted by | austerity funding | , , | Leave a comment

Fewer young people until 2019

I have been looking at the decline in numbers of young people at national and regional level, and the first data which popped up when I googled for local authority numbers was for Gloucestershire.
When I take the pupil numbers, and roll them forward to 2019, Gloucestershire mirrors the steady decline seen at national and regional level.

My projection for Young People in Gloucestershire 2009 to 2019. Source data and graph also from File Box in side bar

By 2014, there will be 10% fewer 15 year olds to feed into further education colleges at 16, and the numbers keep going down to an 18% drop by 2018.
This is a challenge which is every bit as real as the coming funding challenge.

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Numbers of young people | , , | Leave a comment

What Colleges need to do about the Power Gap

People feel powerless when they have little control over the direction of their own lives, or the power to shape the society in which they live – and we see this in how people talk about bankers or MPs expenses. We feel powerless when we compare our own position to bankers who appear to have the power to award themselves high pay, to burden us all with the huge cost of rescuing them when they fail, and to reward themselves while we bear the consequences of financial deficits – and we have no control or voice to shape events.

But the issue is not really about the power of the rich and lucky – it is really about boosting the powerfulness, the resourcefulness, of most people. All three parties now seem to “get it” and talk of “giving power away”, of empowering people, of devolving decision making to a local people.

And if education is to play its part in increasing power, then we need to have a good mental map of where the powerful and the powerless are, and what we need to do to increase the power of young people and adults.

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January 11, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

16-19s at a peak this year, and will now decline steadily

It is never easy to get figures for the numbers of young people, but here are two snapshots from the Office for National Statistics [and with my thanks to Tom Morrison, Regional Observatory Manager, East of England Development Agency for his help with navigation]

17 yr olds in England to 2019. Source data and graph from the File Box in sidebar

First : the number of young people was at a peak in 2009, and will fall steadily in every year starting from 2010 until 2019.

Second: the number of young people year by year across England and Wales will fall by 15% over the next 10 years.

Year 17 year olds In England & Wales, a 15% drop in the number of 17 year olds by the end of the period.
By 2013, the drop will have been 8%
2009 706,500
2011 672,900
2013 655,100
2015 642,400
2017 625,300 Data from Office for National Statistics http://www.statistics.gov.uk
2019 600,900

Then, looking only at English Regions, the nearest useful figures are for the 15-19 age group.

Young People in English Regions to 2019. Source data in File Box in sidebar

Region 2009 2011 2013 2015 2017 2019 drop 2009-2019
East 357.6 352.2 348.3 341.2 331.9 332.4 7%
London 427.1 414.5 406.8 398.3 388.7 395.7 7%
South East 541.8 527.9 517.0 506.1 491.0 489.2 10%
South West 335.0 326.9 322.4 316.3 305.6 302.4 10%
England 3298.4 3195.0 3117.9 3038.7 2935.6 2928.7 11%
East Midlands 295.5 285.9 278.6 271.5 262.8 261.6 11%
West Midlands 358.2 344.5 336.4 328.1 315.7 314.3 12%
Yorks and Humber 352.2 341.0 330.8 320.3 307.6 305.9 13%
North West 461.9 440.0 422.3 408.1 391.0 387.6 16%
North East 169.0 162.1 155.2 148.8 141.3 139.6 17
Data: Office for National Statistics: 2006-based subnational population projections

Third: Over England as a whole, there will be 11% fewer 15-19s

Fourth: Even in London, there will be a steady drop in the number of young people, though at 7% it is less than the all-England figure of 11%.
Across the North, the drop is greater than 15%.

A glib, facile and superficial response to the figures would be that a major smart cut is now easy to imagine, and we can feed a projected 15% reduced spend in the FE budget  into the savings which will help reduce the national financial deficit.

January 7, 2010 Posted by | Numbers of young people | , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Panic – Opportunities in the Age of Austerity

We may have overspent by £175 billion or so this year, so that austerity looks like the order of the day until that deficit is reduced, but “Don’t Panic” is the policy-savvy theme of “Opportunities in the Age of Austerity”. Each contributor looked at one area of public spending to identify opportunities for reducing the deficit that would not damage progressive aims, rather than coming up with a ‘top ten’ list of spending cuts.

Paul Lawrence heads up the national KPMG FE Unit, and contributed “Further Education – making smart cuts and improving efficiency”. Every couple of years, I come across something which acts as a road map for the future, and I think in this I have found the outline of where we are heading.

His view is that “smart cuts” will result from

  • attitude and behavioural changes
  • efficiency gains
  • reorganisations and partnerships

and that they will catalyse better practice.

On reorganisations and partnerships, he starts from the premise [or is it a consensus?] that there are too many small colleges. In the context of savings, small colleges can’t, and he proposes that merger should be seen as a pro-active and positive business arrangement rather than a rescue package. And “modern mergers” encompass a range of formal collaborative partnerships and sub-branding – one existing model would be HE in FE, where University HE provision runs as a separate brand under the FE college umbrella.

If attitudes change so that mediocre and under-performance are not acceptable because they cannot be subsidised, colleges should be allowed to fail [ ie “recover quickly or not at all”].
On this, FE is some way behind the schools sector, where it seems to be a commonplace that schools close, often to be re-opened as a new institution.

“There is scope to make the most efficiency gains from the most inefficient providers” is another of his messages which piles on the pressure.

In all, considerable head of steam building up for fewer colleges, and for life getting very tough for any college which is considered to be struggling, in terms of Ofsted quality, financial outturn, funding performance and learner numbers. Only the best will be favoured, and can survive confidently.

Now = 350 colleges, just coming to the end of a good period of capital and revenue funding.

Soon = probable that about 100 sixth form colleges will return to the schools / local authority / academy sector, so 250 colleges to remain.
My figures would be 250 @ £20m = £5 bn funding, and they would be expected to save 10-20% through efficiencies = £0.5 – 1 bn. Not a big amount when compared to a £175bn deficit, but every little helps.
Then squeeze more out, through tighter targeting of competitive funding, then re-organising 1 in 4 colleges down to 200 or so, to save on back office functions and spread efficient practice.

Clunk Click for the trip ahead! It looks like it’s going to be an exhilarating but bumpy ride.

The Institute for Public Policy Research “Opportunities in the Age of Austerity”
Chapter 8 pages 35 – 37: Paul Lawrence “Further education – making smart cuts and improving efficiency”

Available to download from http://www.ippr.org.uk/publicationsandreports/ or from my Share Box here on the sidebar

January 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

SMART goals for smart course teams

Of course goals should be SMART, but they should work because they mean something to people in course teams, not because they fit together logically in a grid, like a Sudoku puzzle.

The problem is that SMART is always in the future – and goals should live in the present, alongside the people who are working them.

We are now in 2010, with an age of austerity almost upon us. With efficiency savings and funding reductions of 15% or so coming, we need to free up the creativity of course teams to tackle their issues. We shouldn’t be shoehorning them into long term logical planning – they need to keep going with what they are do well.  And that isn’t a licence for doing nothing – if they haven’t done anything much in reality about student retention, or achievement, or improving their own teaching or whatever, then somebody else’s SMART goal – inside or outside the college – will be to say “Sorry it’s too late to do anything about it now”. They would be a burden on their colleagues that can no longer be afforded.

We need teams to live in the present tense with SMART goals.
Not what they will do by July 2010, but what they are doing now. No procrastination , no starting after half term, but goals which are about now – today, this week, by Friday.
The present tense comes up with solutions – we will do this, and that, and change this – and keeps on coming up with solutions.

But a SMART future is somewhere far away , and comes up with a never ending cycle of imagined problems and imagined solutions. Fine for filling grids with things that might happen, but little else. Future SMART goals = Frustration because the goals vanish like clouds the nearer we get to them. They are the middle class ideal of deferred happiness, we are not worthy until we get to our respectable and approved destination.

In the present, real SMART goals give attainable achievement and constant feedback, and stimulate creativity and innovation. This a working class approach – feeling what is going to be good now, and going for it. Getting more of what you want now – one student putting in assignments on time, another not kicking off for a week, using one of Geoff Petty’s teaching ideas or YouTube in the lab – all build a SMART goal. Smart should be Sudden flashes of inspiration; Motivation, Any innovation; Risk; Trying things that work elsewhere.

So no great 12 month SMART Grand Plan for course teams – but being clear on the feedback on what we are doing now, and for the next month; and when we decide what the next steps are.

And if you want to keep the paperwork going – make the SMART goals a retrospective summary. That’s normally what happens anyway.

January 5, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment