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Colleges demand their say

COLLEGES are battling to make their voices heard on the task groups managing the handover to the new learning and skills councils, which will manage post 16 education.

Even though colleges will be major providers of learning and skills, they are under-represented on the task groups charged with planning the transition to the new councils, which are due to start work in April next year, according to the Association of Colleges.

David Gibson, AOC chief executive, has written to the Department for Education and Employment expressing concern that colleges are being kept on the sidelines as the new arrangements for education and training are being drawn up.

He said: "Colleges, as the providers of learning for at least two-thirds of those with whom local LSCs will deal, should have a full involvement, as of right, in the process of planning and developing provision in each area."

The 47 task groups - one for each of the local learning and skills council - are being co-ordinated by the nine regional government offices. But two areas - the North-east and West Midlands - are nderstood to be resisting college involvement in their task groups.

David Gibson said the presence of the Further Education Funding Council on the task groups was not sufficient to guarantee a fair hearing for the sector, particularly as a significant proportion of colleges' activities were non-FEFC funded.

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Employment said that the membership of the groups was at the discretion of the government offices but should include FEFC, regional development agency, employment service, training and enterprise council and local authority representation.

But in places such as Greater Manchester where there are six training and enterprise councils and 10 local education authorities, not everybody could be guaranteed a place on the groups, whose primary role was to gather information on demand within the education and training market, he said.

"Part of the remit was that these groups should not be unwieldy but small and efficient. Colleges aren't essential to this exercise and the FEFC is representing college interests."

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