Stubbs: change with consensus

June 6, 1997

SUCH is Sir William Stubbs' commitment to "making history", he is taking on the chairmanship of the new all-encompassing education superquango, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, without a salary.

The Government will instead give his fee directly to the London Institute, where he is rector, to recompense it for his time. His new role in one of the most powerful jobs in British education is expected to engage him comprehensively.

"There will be no minor tinkering here," he said. "It has been decided to bring together vocational and academic qualifications at the end of the century in a way in which our Victorian predecessors envisioned. This will have its place in history, and it's daunting."

The QCA will begin work on October 1, following the merger of the Schools Curriculum Assessment Authority and the National Council for Vocational Qualifications. The priority, he said, will be finding a new consensus.

"I'm extraordinarily committed to the strength of team working and consultation," he said, with only a hint of criticism for SCAA, which was widely attacked by educationists, and the Labour party in opposition, for rushing through changes to post-compulsory education without proper reference to the teachers and experts.

"I'm not about to start here by criticising SCAA's track record," he said. "QCA will be a team, not just resting on what I, or (chief executive) Nick Tate says. Meaningful consultation and transparency are hallmarks of what I've been trying to do, you just have to look back at my time at the Further Education Funding Council to see that."

There will be no let-up in the QCA's drive to establish, and more controversially, oversee, the provision of vocational qualifications in higher education, Sir William confirmed. But he said vice chancellors worried about a challenge to academic autonomy should not be alarmed.

"I understand the universities' anxiety. But I hope new arrangements are an opportunity to dissipate the anxiety through positive consultation and involvement.

"National Vocational Qualifications will be developed and enhanced, so that they are not seen as separate from the other forms of learning and training already there in further and higher education, in degrees, postgraduate and technician qualifications. NVQs . . . should be seen as enabling to people developing their own life skills and careers. They should be running in harmony."

* The QCA executive team was announced this week. Alan Bellamy will head the vocational qualifications and occupational standards division, and Keith Weller will head the general and general vocational qualifications division, with responsibility for overseeing the review of A levels and GNVQs.

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