This lecture explores findings from a SKOPE research project (funded by the FE Trust for Leadership) on the implications of the devolution from central government to localities of certain aspects of post-19 further and adult education.
For the last 30 years English education has been subject to a process of delocalisation, centralisation and nationalisation. Since 2010 there has been a revival of interest in devolution of power back to localities, and in education this means control over the adult skills budget for those aged 19+ and engaged in learning outside universities. The project explored the implications of these developments, with research conducted in a number of locations, and via interviews, focus groups, conference sessions and other meetings, with further education (FE) college staff, governors, local stakeholders and national government and agencies.
The lecture will locate debates about the localisation of education within broader academic and policy discourses concerning devolution, governance and economic development. It will explore how actors make sense of localism, and how they identify and develop strategies to support more devolved governance and funding.
The conceptual backbone of the project was the concept of 'metis' or localised, practice-based knowledge. One of the key research questions was whether devolution allows metis to be deployed in conditions of trust between central government and localities, and between local actors and stakeholders, and the lecture will explore the considerable tensions between: rhetoric and reality concerning the scale and meaning attached to devolution by different parties; what central government was willing to contemplate and what localities aspired to; different localities’ capacity to assume new responsibilities; the levels of resources available and the potential scale of calls on these funds; and models based on systems and markets. How these tensions and divergences will be resolved is as yet unclear. The lecture discusses what actors can do to develop a compelling vision for localisation, and help metis to flourish.
Professor Ewart Keep holds a chair in Education, Training and Skills at the Department of Education, Oxford University.