Colleges are ordered to clamp down on drug deals and bullying

Neil Merrick

Colleges should take a tougher attitude to discipline and sweep out distractions to learning, says the leader of a new FE development body officially launched this week.

Stephen Crowne, chief executive of the Further Education Development Agency (FEDA), believes the sector must come down hard on campus problems such as bullying or drug dealing.

The new agency, publishing its three-year strategic plan based on a wide-scale survey of colleges, is challenging both students and teachers to improve learning environments in a bid to boost achievement.

"It's highly relevant what kind of discipline arrangement exist in college. " said Mr Crowne.

"Colleges try to cater for everybody but some people's behaviour is so challenging that it detracts from other people's learning."

Colleges are also being urged to be more assertive. Mr Crowne added: "There is a stereotype of FE folk which tends to be inward-looking. They tend to be so defensive."

FEDA appears set to take a more pro-active role in promoting the sector than the organisations it replaced, the Further Education Unit and the Staff College.

Its strategic plan sets out a five-point agenda including more effective management development within colleges, promotion of the curriculum and qualifications and improved participation and achievement.

FEDA will also be looking at the use of information technology and links between college learning programmes and employers.

The agency has inherited about 120 staff and a budget of Pounds 7.5 million.

Mr Crowne, former head of the then Department for Education's qualifications division, is convinced ministers want FEDA to speak with an independent voice. Stressing that he was not "an apparatchik of the DFEE," he said: "Our role is to influence policy from an FE perspective. We have lacked a body which was able to do that because our predecessors were not set up for that purpose. "

Although the sector has not come through incorporation without some hiccups he believes there has also been a tremendous amount of achievement. "The last five years have been about setting up a new sector, but the really interesting bit comes from now on," he said.

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