Further education college and funding heads want more time to rectify problems identified by Ofsted inspectors, writes Tony Tysome.
Last week's annual report from the inspection agency says that inspectors found no evidence of an overall improvement in quality in further education since the previous year's round of visits. One in ten colleges inspected in 2002-03 was judged "inadequate".
The report also says there has been little change in the pattern of provision, despite area reviews by the Learning and Skills Council that are designed to reorganise 14-19 education and training to better meet students' and employers' needs.
The Association of Colleges said this week that more time was needed to bring failing colleges up to scratch.
Judith Norrington, the AoC's director of curriculum and quality, said:
"Where colleges have been judged to perform less well in some areas, it takes time to change the ethos and provision within that area. This is not an overnight process."
The report says that although most further education is satisfactory or better, some weaknesses - particularly in general further education colleges - persist.
Across all colleges, the proportion of unsatisfactory provision has fallen, but so has the proportion of curriculum areas judged to be good or better.
The most common failing of college management was in ensuring and sustaining the quality of teaching and learning.
The report suggests that there have been few improvements since the LSC took over the reins of the sector from the Further Education Funding Council nearly three years ago.
It says: "Too many colleges that were found by the FEFC to have some unsatisfactory provision still have it."
An LSC spokesman said that new strategic area reviews were expected to help establish the "strategic vision" that the report says is lacking in most areas.
- Lecturers at 15 further education colleges are being balloted by their union, Natfhe, over a strike on February 26 in protest against the failure of their colleges to honour a national pay agreement.
More ballots at other colleges were likely to follow, Natfhe said.