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Alert over influx of the unrulyat 14-plus

Lecturers fear government plans for vocational education could lead to dumping of problem pupils, Steve Hook reports

COLLEGE lecturers fear they will be unable to cope with an influx of unruly schoolchildren as the Government presses ahead with plans for vocational training at 14-plus.

As Natfhe prepares for its annual conference in Blackpool today, the effect of the Government's vocational skills agenda on working lecturers will be high on the agenda.

Natfhe's officials believe behaviour management is the biggest headache for members as they anticipate what, for many, will be their first experience with such pupils.

Dan Taubman, national officer for Natfhe's colleges department, said:

"Behaviour management and discipline is the biggest issue that comes up.

"It is a question of staff development. We have got to make sure the schools are not dumping their problems on the colleges.

"We need training and we need funding so lecturers are not doing additional support on top of already large teaching loads.

"It comes down to proper training. If 14 to 19 is going to really make a difference, and we want it to, it should not just be for kids who are struggling. All kids should have an element of it.

"Then we will just have the same discipline problems that schools have and, while there are problems in schools, they are not unmanageable with the right training."

Natfhe sits alongside other unions, including the National Union of Students, on a Learning and Skills Council committee examining the implications of 14-plus.

The union's focus on the practical aspects of 14-plus will come as a relief to ministers who, a year ago, were warned the policy could lead to more industrial strife.

At its annual conference last year, in Torquay, Natfhe threatened to boycott college lessons for school pupils, seizing the opportunity to highlight the disparity between their own pay and that of schoolteachers.

Ivan Lewis, minister for young people and adult skills, was warned about the likely dispute directly before he walked on to the platform at the conference, shortly before being accosted by a member dressed as a monkey, making a point about pay.

But cooler heads are expected to prevail this year. The union does not want to derail pay talks, which are at a sensitive stage. There also is a feeling that industrial action around 14-plus would be difficult to sustain because it would single out a minority of members within each college.

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