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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 16:41 GMT
Colleges get funds for reforms
college students
The FE sector says it need more funds
Further education colleges and sixth forms have been told they must improve standards if they are to get their share of an extra 1.2bn funding for the sector over the next three years.

The Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, said "excellent colleges" would get more money, while poor performing institutions could expect a lower increase.

Performance across the board can vary widely

Charles Clarke
Mr Clarke gave details of how the extra funds - raised from the Chancellor's comprehensive spending review - must be linked to higher standards when he addressed the Association of Colleges' (AoC) annual conference in Birmingham on Tuesday.

Colleges will be expected to meet targets for student numbers, improve pass rates, meet the needs of employers and provide incentives for staff to improve services.

The government also wants to see more fully-qualified teachers and managers in the sector and systems in place to reward high-performing staff.

Mr Clarke - who faced a lobby of striking lecturers, angry at their latest pay offer - said this was an "ambitious agenda" for change across the further education and training sector.

"We are providing the biggest ever investment in FE together with much greater freedom for colleges and other providers - but this must be matched by reform and higher standards across the whole of the sector," Mr Clarke told delegates.

"Change in the sector is desperately needed - for too long it has been the forgotten service of the education world.

"It does provide some excellent quality learning but performance across the board can vary widely."


AoC chief executive David Gibson welcomed Mr Clark's speech, saying the secretary of state had shown a positive attitude towards the sector.

"The role of FE and the role of skills training has got a new political support and interest - and the interest in skills training extends beyond the Department for Education," said Mr Gibson.

Further education lecturers are pro modernisation but anti exploitation

Paul Mackney, Natfhe
The requirements for change and reform would not be imposed, but colleges had been invited to join in discussions, Mr Gibson added.

The lecturers' union Natfhe also welcomed the cash injection and announced the suspension of its planned walkout over pay on 5 December.

General secretary Paul Mackney said: "This is a much needed boost which should enable colleges to close the disgraceful pay gap between lecturers' and school teachers' pay by 2004."

"The national employers should return to the bargaining table immediately and hammer out a pay deal to restore lecturer morale and enable colleges to recruit and retain staff."

But Mr Mackney was wary of the reforms required of the sector.

"Further education lecturers are pro modernisation but anti exploitation. For the last two decades the return for immense innovation and response to change has been exploitation," he claimed.


Delegates at the conference were greeted by striking FE lecturers from across the midlands, angry at their latest pay offer of 2.3% from the AoC.

Members of Unison and the lecturers' union Natfhe from Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country staged a half-day strike to press their case for pay parity between colleges and schools.

Natfhe says the average starting salary for a lecturer is 13,745, rising to 25,000 at the top of the scale.

But teachers - following a 3.5% pay rise in April - can expect to start on a salary of 17,628, with most earning 25,746.

The unions said, with the announcement of extra funding for FE colleges, it would suspend its strike action as there was no excuse for the AoC not to re-enter negotiations on a revised pay offer for this year.

Chris Woodhead, former chief inspector of schools
"The possibility of leaving school might motivate 11,12 or 13 year olds to work a bit harder"
Judith Norrington of the Assoc of Colleges:
"Some young people are voting with their feet"
See also:

05 Nov 02 | Education
05 Aug 02 | Education
19 Jun 02 | Education
17 May 02 | Education
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