College leaders meet their new minister

Further education under secretary is conference speaker

Steve Hook

Colleges will say hello to a new minister next month when he speaks at their annual conference in Birmingham.

Sion Simon, the under secretary of state for further education, will be among a strong line-up at the three-day Association of Colleges event starting on November 18.

It will include the student of the year awards.

Mr Simon, a graduate of Magdalen College, Oxford, grew up in Birmingham, where he was MP for Erdington. Before politics he had a spell as a senior manager with Guinness.

He has also been an outspoken columnist for The Daily Telegraph, the News of the World and the Daily Express - and is an associate editor of The Spectator. His special areas of interest in Parliament have included policy regarding the activities of private equity firms, law and order, and a campaign to secure the future of Jaguar as a British-based motor manufacturer.

Bill Rammell, who was minister for further and higher education, has returned to the Foreign Office, where he was posted before taking up his education role.

It will also be the first conference since the appointment of the AoC's new chief executive, Martin Doel, the former Ministry of Defence training supremo who took over from John Brennan.

Speakers will also include Ed Balls, the Education Secretary, Matthew Pinsent, the quadruple Olympic gold medal rower, and Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats. The conference is likely to be dominated by "machinery of government" changes that will bring about the end of the Learning and Skills Council in 2010.

That will lead to changes in the way colleges and private training providers are funded.

A Skills Funding Agency will be responsible for post-19 education and the Young People's Learning Agency will take on 16-18 funding alongside local education authorities.

Colleges will retain their independent status, won after they left direct local education authority control in 1993.

The AoC itself has also restructured, with the introduction of a president, a new post currently filled by David Collins, principal of South Cheshire College.

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Steve Hook

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