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Blame for the further education dispute lies squarely with principals

To say that FE college governors find "the culture and process of the educational world strange and alien" as if they never set foot in a college before is patronising and an insult to their intelligence ("The shameful sound of silence", TES, April 21).

If anything, the open-ended contract which Ken Ruddiman is so fond of is the very thing that is alien to governors, for such a concept does not exist in the business and industrial world from which the majority are drawn. The mentality that advocates the unrestricted availability of a worker to labour is the mentality of a slave-owner which is alien to everyone, with the exception, it seems, of college principals such as Mr Ruddiman.

Mr Ruddiman is attempting to divert the blame for the current contract dispute away from college principals and on to the governors, who in the main only follow the advice given to them by their principals. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of those principals who refuse to embrace changes in management practices in terms of efficient use of resources, viable management structures and competent planning. They see the Colleges' Employers' Forum's open-ended contract as a way of avoiding these necessary and sometimes painful changes.

The argument against a CEF-style open-ended contract is not limited to the increased workloads of the lecturing staff and the consequential effect on the quality of education, as important as these are. It certainly has nothing to do with fairness. An open-ended contract has a very insidious and in the long term disastrous consequence as far as the management of colleges is concerned for it obviates the need for planning and consequently breaks down the discipline so necessary for any efficient management. If you have a chauffeured car at your disposal 24 hours a day, then there is no need for a planned usage of that utility.

As far as the lecturing staff are concerned, we have embraced changes and have welcomed the new challenges. Far from being "silent", the lecturers' union, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, undertook to meet all the demonstrable needs of colleges both financial and academic. Our December 23 1993 proposals provide the necessary flexibility that any competent management needs in order to run a modern and responsive college. We have challenged college principals to identify the needs of the service that the current contract is unable to satisfy. Where this took place a local agreement with NATFHE was reached. So far and most unfortunately, the CEF has failed to respond and the dispute continues and will continue until college principals come to their senses.


Vice-chair, FE industrial relations committee


London WC1

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