Defiant Natfhe faces snub

July 13, 2001

Ministers have condemned both union leaders threatening to strike over pay and colleges that say they cannot afford well-qualified staff.

John Healey, the new lifelong learning minister, told the House of Commons that Natfhe's claim for an across-the-board pay increase for further education lecturers of £3,000 was "simply not on the cards".

He also dismissed the basis of Natfhe's claim that further education lecturers' pay had fallen behind that of school teachers.

"In many ways, schools are different institutions with different problems... Direct comparisons are, therefore, not appropriate," he said.

Mr Healey's comments came in response to questions in the House, following a lobby of Parliament by Natfhe representatives last week.

Natfhe's further education committee, which met at the weekend, has decided to recommend that members reject the latest pay offer of a 3.7 per cent increase because it contains no "catch-up" element to bring lecturers' pay in line with school teachers'.

Two days of strike action are planned unless the offer is improved.

Tim Boswell, the Tory further education spokesman, said concerns expressed by Natfhe at last week's lobby were "entirely genuine and moderate and in no sense politically motivated".

He said there had been problems in getting money that had been earmarked from local learning and skills councils for staff who improved their qualifications.

But Mr Healey disagreed. "It is for colleges to conclude agreements with staff for the extra money, and they must provide the Learning and Skills Council with the simple assurance that it will be spent in line with the design of the scheme," he said.

"My message to college managers and staff representatives is this: we have ensured that the money is available - get on with it."

COLLEGES GIVEN ULTIMATUM AFTER OFSTED REPORTS

Further education colleges have been warned to improve standards or risk losing funding, after weaknesses were exposed in their first Ofsted inspection reports.

College managers have asked for more time and information to help them cope with new inspection criteria.

Two of the first three colleges to receive reports under the new Ofsted regime have been told to draw up plans to improve and prepare to be re-inspected.

Redbridge College in London was judged by inspectors to be "inadequate overall", and will have to undergo a full re-inspection.

Teesside Tertiary College in Middlesborough was considered to be providing generally satisfactory education, but its leadership and management was unsatisfactory. The college will have to be partially re-inspected.

Brooklands College in Surrey was judged to be satisfactory in all areas.

Lifelong learning and higher education minister Margaret Hodge said the government would not tolerate the unsatisfactory standards revealed in the Redbridge and Teesside reports.

She said: "If they do not improve, we will not hesitate to... look at other options, including... withdrawing funding from certain courses and departments."

The Association of Colleges dismissed the results as "due to differences in the inspection systems" between the old and new regimes.

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