Tomlinson (1996)

1996 Tomlinson Report (text)


Tomlinson Report (1996)
Report of the Learning Difficulties and/or Disabilities Committee

The Further Education Funding Council 1996

Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.


Background notes

John Tomlinson

John Tomlinson (1932-2005) was educated at Stretford Grammar School, Manchester University, and the Institute of Historical Research.

After serving as a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force from 1955 to 1958, he taught for two years and then became a local authority education officer, first in Shropshire and then in Lancashire. In 1967 he was appointed Deputy Director of Cheshire Local Education Authority, becoming Director in 1971.

From 1985 until his retirement in 1997 he was Professor of Education at the University of Warwick and Director of the University's Institute of Education. Following his retirement he was appointed emeritus professor.

He served on a large number of public bodies: he was chair of the Schools Council from 1978 to 1981, President of the Society of Education Officers from 1982 to 1985, and Chair of the Council of the Royal Society of Arts from 1989 to 1991. He was a significant figure in the creation of the General Teaching Council.

The Guardian described him as 'a prophet':

During his career he anticipated and pioneered significant educational ideas: residential centres, comprehensives, inter-professional collaboration in the interests of the whole child, self-reflective schools and inclusive education. At a time when most of society's ills were being laid at the door of teachers, he nourished their self-respect and dedication, and conveyed his enthusiasm in elegant prose, and powerful, witty speeches and lectures (Obituary, 30 August 2005).

The Report

The report was commissioned by the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) following the new responsibilities placed on the Council and the colleges by the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act.

The Learning Difficulties and/or Disabilities Committee, chaired by John Tomlinson, was given the following terms of reference:

Having regard to the Council's responsibilities towards students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, to review the range and type of further education provision available, and to make recommendations as to how, within the resources likely to be available to it, the Further Education Funding Council can, by working with colleges and others, best fulfil its responsibilities towards these students under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (page 203)
The Committee's work took three years (1993-96). An account of their strategy with regard to evidence can be found in Appendix 2 to Annex F

See also the 1997 report Learning Works: Widening Participation in Further Education, produced by the FEFC's Widening Participation Committee, chaired by Helena Kennedy.

Summary of the report's recommendations

The report's key aim was the development of a more inclusive further education sector.

It recommended that:

  • there should be an adequately funded, nationally co-ordinated staff training initiative for inclusive learning to cover teacher training, management training, and organisational development;
  • colleges should be encouraged to produce long-term strategy and action plans on inclusive learning and to appoint inclusive learning managers;
  • the FEFC should continue to recognise the costs of providing effective individual student assessment, promote wider understanding of its funding methods, and consider allocating funds to cover new costs which may arise as a result of ensuring effective assessments for inclusive learning;
  • the FEFC should ensure that its funding arrangements continue to enable colleges to meet the costs of individual support for learning;
  • there should be new regional sub-committees to recommend funding new provision where there is evidence of emerging need and/or it can be done more effectively than at specialist colleges;
  • any review of funding methodology should promote inclusive learning and participation.;
  • colleges should measure their progress towards inclusive learning through self-assessment, and the provision of inclusive learning should be a criterion in their inspection;
  • all students' achievements should be recognised within a national framework which gives value to their learning, including developing a pre-foundation award called Skills for Adult Life relevant to all students;
  • there should be a wider view of the meaning of progression, to include transferring and maintaining knowledge, skills and understanding.
  • a framework for collaboration between the FEFC, government departments and other agencies should be created to provide a 'seamless robe' of provision and support services and opportunities to move in and out of learning as needed;
  • colleges should be required to take more systematic account of local needs and to receive help with strategic planning to take account of under-represented groups of adult learners, including those with multiple difficulties, mental health difficulties, and emotional and behavioural difficulties.
(This summary is based on that published by the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE).

The report online

The complete report, published by the Further Education Funding Council as a 266-page A4-size paperback, is presented in a single web page. I have not reproduced the two-column layout of the original. Blank pages have been omitted.

The above notes were prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 21 May 2021.