For Many Working in the Further Education (FE) Sector, the Demise of the Further Education

For Many Working in the Further Education (FE) Sector, the Demise of the Further Education

Duplication? Duplication? Duplication? Is the Plethora of Quangos responsible for FE actually adding value to the Sector? An initial analysis Lifelong Learning UK Ltd.

Dr. Mike Hammond

Research and Development ManagerDudleyCollege


This paper is work in progress analysing the market position and services of Lifelong Learning UK Ltd (LLUK). The paper analyses the development ofLLUK Ltd as a Sector Skills Council (SSC) as an amalgamation of four National Training Organisations (NTOs). The paper then goes on to investigate how the strategic aims of LLUK Ltd may in actuality duplicate many of the strategic aims of other policy quangos, operating within the education sector. The paper begins to question whether the LLUK Ltd competence standards for the FE sector, particularly for managers are not outdated, and also duplicate albeit in a different way, the work of the Centre for Excellence in Leadership. The paper also explores whether in fact, competence as a methodology is suitable for assessing certain skills required in ‘good’ FE teachers. Underlying this paper is the question of whether or not LLUK Ltd, like many other quangos, is actually giving value for money to the Government and to the sector, by adding any real value.

For many working in the Further Education (FE) sector, the demise of the Further Education National Training Organisation (FENTO) will have passed almost unnoticed. The assumption probably made by those same people is that FENTO has simply had a name and designation change to Lifelong Learning UK Ltd (LLUK) a Sector Skills Council (SSC) from FENTO a National Training Organisation (NTO). This view would be a complete over simplification of LLUK Ltd, which is not simply one renamed NTO, but an amalgamation of four former NTO organisations. Lifelong UK Ltd, as an SSC, is comprised of the Further Education NTO (FENTO), the Higher Education Staff Development Agency NTO (HESDA), the Information Services NTO (isNTO) and the Community-based learning NTO (Paulo) (LLUK, 2004a, pi).

A major component of the new FE sector policy order, is partnering between strategic bodies and Government departments (LLUK, 2004a; Hammond, 2004 a; Hammond, 2004b; Hammond, 2004c; Hammond, 2005a; Hammond, 2005b). To this end, LLUK has adopted the four strategic priorities of the Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA), which are first, the increasing of opportunities for skills development and productivity in a group called the lifelong learning workforce[1]. Secondly, to improve the quality of learning supply.[2] Thirdly, the reduction of skills gaps and skills shortages in the lifelong learning workforce. Fourthly, the improvement of productivity and business performance within the lifelong learning sector (LLUK, 2004a, p1). The list of strategic partners that LLUK identifies for itself is impressive, and includes: the skills for business network, employers and employees, employer associations, nations and regions, learning providers, trade unions, inspectorates, Government Departments, funding bodies, regulatory bodies, awarding bodies and professional and accrediting bodies (LLUK, 2004a, p10).

In previous work, I have argued that the sheer number of organisations involved in planning within the FE sector, has created what might be described as a quasi competitive internal policy and skills market, where an ever increasing plethora of quangos compete under the guise of partnering for a slice of the post 16 education and skills policy cake (Hammond, 2004 a; Hammond, 2004b; Hammond, 2005a; Hammond, 2005b). LLUK (2004a) concedes that the market as currently construed might lead to “duplication, unhelpful competition and low margins in an already crowded market place for providers and services” (LLUK, 2004a, p39).

If for example, the six strategic priorities of the LLUK Ltd contained in the five-year strategic plan are considered, then it is suggested that an argument can be made for suggesting that there is duplication of priority across a number of quangos within the FE policy sector (LLUK, 2004b). An analysis of this is contained in table 1, and suggests that there are numerous existing quangos whose work/ strategic priorities are the same as those of LLUK Ltd, and while these may explicitly be identified as partners with LLUK Ltd, one must question what added value this seemingly rampant duplication is putting into the sector (DfES, 2003; DTLGR, 2004; Hammond, 2004a; Hammond, 2004b; Hammond, 2004c; Hammond, 2005a; Hammond, 2005b).

(Table 1: based on LLUK Ltd (2004b) p5, p17-27.)

LLUK Ltd Strategic Priorities / Other comparator quangos with similar/identical/ duplicated strategic priorities
Provide authoritative workforce intelligence and information; to establish baselines and set targets in Lifelong Learning UK’s business plans and in the action plans which sit within Sector Skills Agreements. / DTI [3] (National Government).
National LSC[4]
Institute of Labour Studies
Chamber of Commerce
Build a climbing frame of core standards and credit based qualifications, with a view to encouraging skills development and transfer and creating a workforce which employers regard as fit for purpose. / QCA[7]
Examination Boards, i.e. C&GLI, EDEXCEL and RSA
(NCVQ[8]) qualifications framework.
Promote sector-wide career pathways and progression routes, which recognise prior achievement and experience and increase opportunities for mobility within the sector. / CEL[9] (Leadership and Management).
LSC and LLSC[10]
SSDA and curriculum area SSCs[11]
Make it easier to recruit and develop the workforce by reducing skills gaps and shortages and by tackling shortfalls in recruitment. / IIP[12] and providers.
Chambers of Commerce
Professional Institutes and industrial training boards/ guilds
Engage employers and stakeholders in boosting the performance of the sector by investing in people. / LSC and LLSCs
Chamber of Commerce
Professional Institutes and industrial training boards/ guilds.
Broker a rolling programme of funded Sector Skills Agreements to deliver the action plans agreed with employers, strategic partners and key stakeholders. / LSC and LLSCs.

Although LLUK Ltd is an amalgamation of four NTOs; an interesting business decision has been made in relation to what used to be primarily the work of FENTO in relation to Initial Teacher Education and the Standards Verification Services (LLUK, 2004a, p38). Rather than incorporating FENTO into LLUK Ltd directly, it would appear that the main FENTO business areas have been subsumed into a subsidiary company called Standards Verification UK (SVUK) (LLUK, 2004a). The former FENTO now SVUK standards cover a wide range of competences for performing various roles within the FE sector. It is argued, that the standards are based on the neo-liberal behaviourist concept of competence initially championed by the National Council for Vocational Qualifications (NCVQ) (Jessup, 1991; Smithers, 1991; Hammond 2004d). Each task of the teacher or the manager is broken down into a number of competences, from which the ability of the teacher or manager can be assessed [13](FENTO, 2001a; FENTO, 2001b; FENTO, 2001c; LLUK, 2005; Hammond, 2004d). There are possibly two problems identified with the SVUK standards, first, they may denigrate against TQM[14], as they set a minimum standard that doesn’t encourage the concept of continuous improvement, and secondly, in assessing teacher training, rather than say making a ‘gallows bracket’ in NVQ1 carpentry with a 2mm +/- tolerance allowed in the joint, a lot of the competencies in teacher training, I would argue can only be assessed using the professionalism of the assessor, and almost a gut instinct.[15] (Denning, 1996; Hammond, 2004d).

In relation to duplication, an interesting corollary exists, as although SVUK teacher training standards seem to be well bedded within University and College initial FE teacher training courses, when it comes to SVUK’s desire to capture a niche in the leadership and management education and training market for FE, then this would appear to bring them into direct competition with the CEL. It would be surprising if, given that the CEL is based around a leading private business school, and a management school at a University[16] there would be much sympathy for what it might be argued is a rather dated model of competence, as a measure of management and particularly leadership performance. Both agencies cite each other as potential partners, but it appears more likely that even though the products will differ significantly, they will be in competition with each other for the same clients, and only one will ‘win out’ and be required (LLUK, 2004a; LLUK, 2004b; CEL, 2004).

Finally, the role of LLUK is an interesting one, if one accepts that Government propose that for policy purposes, there is to be a tripartite split between 14/16- 19 curriculum, skills and adult learners[17] (DfES, 2003; DTLGR, 2004; Hammond, 2005b). LLUK Ltd, as an SSC sits firmly within the skills pathway and therefore is somewhat divorced from the FENTO bedrock of services to FE Colleges[18] and 16-19, as well as potentially being distanced from its community education and HE brief clients. It will be interesting to see if LLUK can redefine itself and its products to do business with private training providers and Centres of Vocational Excellence within the proposed skills sector, and community groups in the developing adult education sector, rather than simply relying on in the case of FENTO, the FE College sector. It will also be interesting to see how LLUK Ltd relates to the very different worlds of Higher Education, community and Library Services within the FE and HE sectors, particularly as within the emerging model, as an SSC, it will be co-ordinated by the SSDA, which has a skills bias[19](DfES, 2003; DTLGR, 2004).


Centre for Excellence in Leadership (2004) Leading the Way 2004-2006 Lancaster, CEL.

Deming, W.E. (1986) Out of the Crisis: Quality, Productivity and Comparative PositionCambridge, CambridgeUniversity Press.

DfES (2003) White Paper: 21st Century Skills, Realising our PotentialLondon, HMSO.

DTLGR (2004) White Paper: Your Region, Your ChoiceLondon, HMSO.

FENTO (2001a) FENTO standards for teacher training qualifications for Further Education in EnglandLondon, FENTO.

FENTO (2001b) FENTO: Governors and Clerks in Further Education Benchmark StandardsLondon, FENTO.

FENTO (2001c) FENTO: Towards a more qualified professionLondon, FENTO.

.Hammond, M.J. (2004a) From Bambi to Stalin: The Politics of Control and Power Within the Further Education Sector under ‘New’ Labour Education-lineLeeds, University of Leeds.

Hammond, M.J. (2004b) An introductory analysis of the potential effects of the ‘politics of the English regions’ and their regional development agencies on the further education sector within the West Midlands region Education- line Leeds, University of Leeds.

Hammond, M.J. (2004c) Old wine in new wine skins? An analysis of the Sector Skills Development Agency and the Sector Skills Council Education- lineLeeds, University of Leeds..

Hammond, M.J. (2004d) A Tribute to Carole Flynn RIP: An Analysis of the Effects of the FENTO standards on the Teaching ProfessionEducation- lineLeeds, University of Leeds.

Hammond, M.J. (2005a) A An interim analysis of the regionalisation agenda for Further Education and skills within the Regional Development Agency of the West Midlands. Education- lineLeeds, University of Leeds.

Hammond, M.J. (2005) Success for All: mechanisms for meeting needs and improving choice, a critical analysis from a ‘Black Country’ perspective Education-line Leeds, University of Leeds.

Jessup, G. (1991) Outcomes: NVQ’s and the emerging model of education and training Falmer Press, Brighton.

Lifelong Learning UK Ltd (2004a) Eighteen Month Business PlanLondon, LLUK Ltd

Lifelong Learning UK Ltd (2004b) Five Year Business PlanLondon, LLUK Ltd

Lifelong Learning UK Ltd (2005) National Occupational Standards for Leadership & Management in the Post-Compulsory Learning and Skills Sector London, FENTO

Smithers, A. (1991) All Our Futures (Dispatches Channel 4), London, Channel 4.

[1] One assumes that this refers to everyone within the UK, although this is not confirmed.

[2] Presumably again, this means the quality of teaching and learning materials and resources, but this is not clear.

[3] Department of Trade and Industry

[4] National Learning and Skills Council at Coventry..

[5] Regional Development Agency.

[6] Sector Skills Development Agency

[7] Qualification Assessment Authority

[8] National Council for Vocational Qualifications, although defunct, produced such a framework, which all FE qualifications were supposed to map into.

[9] Centre for Excellence in Leadership

[10] Local Learning and Skills Councils

[11] Although LLUK is a SSC, it is envisaged that industrial up-skilling of teachers and trainers would be the responsibility of the subject specific SSC.

[12] Investors in People.

[13] An interesting exception to this, are the standards for Governors and Clerks, which are set out in the form of case scenarios, with suggested answers for resolution included (FENTO, 2001c).

[14] Total Quality Management

[15] So for example, how does one assess E4b of the Teacher Qualification Standards:” Create formal and informal opportunities to listen and respond to the views and feelings of individual learners”, without relying on professional judgement of the teacher trainer assessor? (FENTO, 2001b)

[16]AshridgeBusinessSchool and the School of Management at LancasterUniversity.

[17] Although as argued within Hammond (2005b), politics over sixth forms, and ineffective Strategic Area Reviews by the LLSCs may in fact blur the edges of this model somewhat (Hammond, 2005b).

[18] Which might explain why LLUK Ltd have divorced the former FENTO work from the main business

[19] Even allowing for the fact that the SSDA somewhat bizarrely has responsibility for the co-ordination and creation of foundation degrees (Hammond, 2004c).