Letter: Speaking volumes

November 10, 2000

Your front-page headline "Poor leaders are crippling UK colleges" ( THES , November 3) does not reflect what we heard the Further Education Funding Council chief inspector, Jim Donaldson, say at the council's final annual conference.

What we heard was a positive and balanced reflection on the achievements of a college sector that benefits from a mature relationship with its inspectorate. That remit extends to England only.

To quote Donaldson: "I want to say very clearly that there has been no overall increase in the percentage of provision judged to be unsatisfactory - either in teaching and learning, curriculum provision or cross-college provision.

"The great majority of colleges are well governed and managed; fewer colleges were found to be at serious risk in terms of quality than in 1998-99; over 90 per cent of teaching and learning, and curriculum provision is at least satisfactory; (and) while retention is holding steady, achievement levels are rising - building on last year's improvement."

While pointing to the need for improvement in spreading good practice, improving governance and management through training, supporting part-time teachers and enhancing resources for basic skills provision, Donaldson concluded that between 1997 and 1999, there was 15 per cent growth in qualifications achieved (18 per cent in colleges with a high widening participation factor).

He ended by saying that these figures "speak volumes about the contribution that colleges are making in fulfilling the government's agenda". We could not have put it better ourselves. The full text can be found at www.fefc.ac.uk

David Gibson
Chief executive
Association of Colleges

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