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Colleges face new draconian regime

Draconian measures similar to those imposed on schools will be taken against failing colleges by Education Secretary David Blunkett when he sets up the new Learning and Skills Council for England.

Mr Blunkett will introduce a new regime of special measures for failing or vulnerable colleges. He is also considering powers to bring in private companies to run colleges that fail to recover.

New powers for the Secretary of State are being drawn up for an Education Bill which is expected to be included in the Queen's Speech. A senior Government official told The TES: "It will be swift enabling legislation and will not go into too much detail."

Currently, the Further Education Funding Council sends hit squads into those colleges in serious financial difficulty. It also encourages mergers where neighbouring colleges are weak. But there is no formal regime as in schools.

New measures will extend the powers of the Secretary of State to name failing colleges and introduce "special measures" following Office for Standards in Education-style inspections, similar to those imposed on schools.

The Bill is expected to go through Parliament within six months of the Queen's Speech, and will abolish the Further Education Funding Council, and training and enterprise councils.

A new learning and skills council will take over all post-16 education and training (excluding sixth-forms and higher education). It will be served by 40 to 50 regional councils.

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