On Tuesday 20 June 2017 the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, will make a statement on Post Compulsory Education and Training Consultation. This is likely to be the announcement of the consultation on the Welsh Government’s plans to implement its response to Professor Ellen Hazelkorn’s report, Towards 2030: A framework for building a world-class post-compulsory education system for Wales.
Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education, is due to make a statement about the recommendations of the Hazelkorn report in Plenary on Tuesday: Plenary Agenda: Tuesday 31st January 2017.
Professor Hazelkorn’s Review
In July 2015, the Welsh Government asked Professor Ellen Hazelkorn to undertake a Review of the Oversight and Regulation of Post-Compulsory Education and Training in Wales.
Professor Hazelkorn’s report, Towards 2030: A framework for building a world-class post-compulsory education system for Wales, was published in March 2016.
When Kirsty Williams became Cabinet Secretary, she made a commitment to consult further on the specific recommendations of the Hazelkorn review.
Professor Hazelkorn was asked to review the oversight of post-compulsory education in Wales, with special reference to the future role and function of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW). The Review’s Terms of Reference included:
To review, analyse and document the current arrangements for the oversight of post-compulsory education in Wales, including:
- Quality assurance / standards of education and training, and
- Management of risk.
The Review was also asked to indicate whether there may be a need for legislation.
When the report was published just before the Assembly election, Huw Lewis, then Minister for Education and Skills said that it would be for the new Government to consider and determine its response.
Professor Hazelkorn has made six high level recommendations and associated sub-recommendations which the report says ‘in combination, can bring about the systemic changes required to develop a post-compulsory education system fit for the 21st century’.
The six high-level recommendations are:
- Develop an overarching vision for the post-compulsory education system for Wales based upon stronger links between education policy, providers and provision, and social and economic goals to ensure the needs of Wales are future-proofed as far as is practicable.
- Establish a single new authority – to be called the Tertiary Education Authority (TEA) – as the single regulatory, oversight and co-ordinating authority for the post-compulsory sector.
- Place the needs of learners at the centre of the educational system, by establishing clear and flexible learning and career pathways.
- Civic engagement should be embedded as a core mission and become an institution wide-commitment for all post-compulsory institutions.
- Create a better balance between supply-led and demand-led education and research provision, shifting away from a market-demand driven system to a mix of regulation and competition-based funding.
- Create the appropriate policies, processes and practices to encourage better long-term and joined-up thinking about the educational needs and requirements for Wales, now and into the future.
Reception from stakeholders and impact on students
At the time the report was published, the umbrella bodies representing further education colleges and training providers in Wales respectively, ColegauCymru and National Training Federation Wales, broadly welcomed the report in a Joint Statement on 10 March 2016.
Colegau Cymru said:
Structures have held Wales back from being able to be as flexible as we need to be in order to deliver a seamless post-compulsory education and training system that works for learners, employers and entrepreneurs at all levels. (…)
This report gives us an opportunity … to address the inherent structural weakness of the current planning and resourcing systems.
The National Training Federation Wales commented:
Our economy needs an education system that recognises that learning part time and in the workplace can be just as educationally challenging as learning academic subjects in a classroom. (…)
We look forward to working with the new Welsh Government and Assembly in exploring the issues and recommendations raised in the report.
Universities Wales, representing higher education institutions, said in its response to the report:
We are pleased to see the report recognising the vital role that universities play in securing economic prosperity and social justice for Wales. In broad terms, Professor Hazelkorn’s recognition of the importance of an arms-length body for distributing public funding for higher education is especially welcome.
We look forward to considering the report in detail and working together with Government and key stakeholders to reach the very best outcome that we can for prospective students who aspire to go on to study at a higher level, and for ensuring continued high performance of higher education in Wales in the area of research and knowledge transfer.’ [my emphasis]
Much of the focus of the Hazelkorn review is on governance and regulatory issues. However, some of the six high level recommendations, if accepted and implemented by the Welsh Government, are intended to have a positive impact on students.
Professor Hazelkorn says that to achieve this:
- A ‘holistic’ approach is needed that ‘values and rewards parity of esteem between vocational and academic pathways, whether full-time or part-time, on-campus or off-campus’.
- There should be’ greater participation and access by all-ages, gender and talent’ on a life-long basis.
- Work should ‘continue to widen access and participation, including measures to overcome hidden biases’, for example gender, ethnicity, race and socio-economic status.
- Improvements are needed to the ‘quality of publicly available information and advice about all learning and career pathways, vocational and academic, and about all institutions, from an early age’ to enable students to make good and informed choices.
If Kirsty Williams announces a public consultation on the Hazelkorn recommendations in Plenary on Tuesday (currently expected to be around 3.45pm), this will be your opportunity to have your say.
You can watch Plenary on: Senedd TV
Article by Anne Thomas, National Assembly for Wales Research Service