There is obvious concern across the whole of the education sector at what is happening in the further education colleges some of which has been aired recently in The THES.
As a parent of a teenager I too am concerned. I was an FE lecturer and was impressed by the quality and professionalism of A-level teaching, with an approach which seemed a better preparation for university than two years in a more autocratic sixth form. I am less certain of this now. Further education lecturers' workloads have increased dramatically in both hours and student numbers, part-time teachers (an important group) have had their pay rates effectively cut, management tiers have multiplied, and a climate of fear and division seems to be common. I am glad my son's school has a sixth-form and (with some nostalgic regret) I suspect I will finally encourage him to stay on there. I know colleges offer much greater variety of post-16 vocational courses, but even here I worry. What used to attract experienced practitioners from commerce and industry was not the money, but the conditions of work, the status, and the greater job security. Those attractions seem to have disappeared for good. In future will further education merely recruit from the private sector's cast-offs?
The examples of financial ineptitude and incompetence of management deepen the concern for the sector. Are these few instances just the tip of a massive iceberg or simply local aberrations? Parents and concerned educationists everywhere are uncertain of the answer, and it will take more than platitudes, statistics, and recommended guidelines on college governance to reassure us.
C. M. O'Hagan
29a Darley Park Road