Call for twin quality watchdog

January 9, 1998

COLLEGES should adopt the same quality assurance regime as schools, Sir Robert Gunn, chairman of the Further Education Funding Council, has told the government.

Sir Robert has urged education minister Tessa Blackstone to include measures to "converge quality assurance" in the lifelong learning white paper, expected later this month. This echoes a national advisory group recommendation to "harmonise and standardise" inspections.

"There will be significant benefits if common arrangements, performance measures and quality targets were applied to the assessment of all post-16 provision regardless of the type of institutions in which that provision is delivered," Sir Robert said in a letter to the minister.

A spokeswoman for the FEFC said that the focus of the letter was provision for 16 to 19-year-olds and that Sir Robert's letter should not be read as extending to universities.

The letter, written jointly with Graham Lane, chair of education at the Local Government Association, argues that the FEFC's quality assurance arrangements should be linked with Ofsted, the schools inspectorate.

It also argues for joint planning of post-16 provision in the regions by institutions and other local partners. This might require primary legislation. It calls for "mechanisms to ensure coherent institutional planning and delivery of post-16 education".

This would be underpinned with a "democratisation" of education bodies. This would mean including elected members of local education authorities as members of college governing bodies to "demonstrate the colleges' commitment and accountability to its local community".

The government must also "make it clear that members of governing bodies serve the college in an individual and corporate capacity and are not representative of external interests", it said.

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