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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 00:08 GMT
Colleges told to improve
FE sector
The FE sector has grown by 70% in five years
Further education colleges have been warned over high drop-out rates and inadequate lectures.

The House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee has reported on the further education sector - and says that colleges "need to raise their game".

The report says that only 56% of students, aged 16 to 18 years, achieved the qualifications for which they had begun studying.

And a third of lectures were only satisfactory or worse.

There were also fears that learning targets could be missed, unless there were improvements.

The report into this fast-growing sector, which has expanded by 70% in five years, suggests that colleges were not always matching students to appropriate courses.

Cinderella sector

The further education sector was too often regarded as "the Cinderella of education", said committee chairman, Edward Leigh.

But it had a vital role in developing skills and widening access to education.

As such, he said the further education sector "must attract more students and it must get better at matching students to courses so that square pegs are not put into round holes".

"Overall, the sector must raise its game if the national learning targets are to be met, building on the innovation and good work already done in some colleges."

Variable performance

The committee had also heard from the lecturers' union, Natfhe, that there needed to be a substantial investment in lecturers' pay to secure further improvements.

Higher Education Minister Margaret Hodge said that the government had already taken action to tackle underperformance in colleges.

"There has been too much variation in college performance. This is a longstanding problem which we are addressing. We need to improve retention, achievement and success rates of students in FE and will build on the best practice we identify," said the minister.

Putting the drop-out rates into context, a spokesperson for the Association of Colleges said "colleges take on all-comers - it doesn't matter what your background is or how many times you have failed before, colleges will try to help".

See also:

19 Jul 00 | Education
Performance pay for college lecturers
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