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7 February 2011
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Funds for ICT as a basic skill
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ICT Opinion

Show us the money!

Ena Jesani, managing director of North West London Online, welcomes the government decision to make ICT the third Skill for Life.

But, she asks, where is the funding for ICT equipment and support, broadband running costs, software licences, online screening and staff costs?


At last we see the arrival of the ICT Skills for Life Standards. It has taken a while since the government announced that ICT would be the third Skill for Life when it launched the Skills Strategy White Paper on 9 July 2003, '21st-Century Skills - Realising Our Potential':

"Until now, basic skills have referred to literacy and numeracy. In today's society, we believe it is as important that everybody can also use Information and Communications Technology (ICT), particularly in the workplace. So we shall offer basic ICT skills as a third area of adult basic skills alongside literacy and numeracy within our Skills for Life programme."

Those of us who have been advocating ICT as a Skill for Life for years might like to breathe out now, but I suspect that, like me, some people are still holding their breath. Somewhere, on an obscure e-mail reminder there is a note saying 'funding?'

No I am not one of those people that harp on about 'not enough funding' all the time. I merely harp on about launching new ideas, mapped against high government priorities packaged without sustainable funding strategies.

Huge costs

I have not heard where new funds will come from to implement the new standards. Or have I missed something?

I am not trying to put the dampeners on a happy moment but just as the potential benefit to learners, tutors and employers is huge, so is the cost.

Now you may well think, 'what is the fuss about?' After all, maintained FE providers already have computers and teaching staff. Couldn't they just add on a few extra courses? Let me stop you there and ask you to share some of my questions.

...who pays for the running costs?...

What if you do not receive mainstream funding, for example, training providers in the voluntary and community sector? Aren't some of them engaged in training highly excluded groups in the community, whose need for Skills for Life is likely to be great?

Ongoing cost

Even if they have managed to procure ICT equipment and technical support, who pays for the running cost of broadband connectivity, annual software licences, online screening and diagnostic tools?

And who is going to deliver training to the new standards?

According to the latest reforms from FENTO (the Further Education National Training Organisation) for tutors of Skills for Life, all newcomers must hold a level 4 subject specification qualification.

Does that mean that ICT tutors will also need to have level 4 qualifications? What about those programmes where ICT is embedded into another subject area or literacy, for example, is embedded into an ICT course?

Will the tutor delivering this have to be a level 4 subject specialist in both?

Who is going to fund all of this professional development for staff? After all, continuing professional development should be at the heart of all good organisations.

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