Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance

Scoring Opportunity or Hospital Pass? The Changing role of local Authorities in 14-19 Education and Training in England

In 2008, the UK Labour government unveiled plans to abolish the Learning and Skills Council and transfer funding for the education and training of 16-19 year olds in England to local authorities (LAs), with funding for adult skills passing to a new Skills Funding Agency. The transfer of 16-19 funding complements the responsibilities that LAs have already acquired in relation to the raising of the education and training participation age and ensuring that all young people have access to a full 14-19 curriculum entitlement in their area. Such a move might also be read as part of the ‘new localism’ that has gained currency under the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, as well as an opportunity to rein back from an English education and training system that has become increasingly centralised and ‘top-down’. Indeed, some commentators have argued for a new model of governance based on ‘devolved social partnership’, with input from a wider range of stakeholders and the space for policy levers to be shaped more at local level. Drawing upon interviews with key personnel in LAs and other stakeholders across three regions of England, this article examines the opportunities and challenges that LAs face in their new role, whether this amounts to a genuine devolution of power, and the prospects for ‘devolved social partnership’. The article concludes that LAs are being offered ‘accountability without control’, with ‘devolved social partnership’ more akin to a distant dream than an emerging reality.

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