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Colleges hit back at Ofsted criticism

Colleges have reacted angrily to the Office for Standards in Education's wide-ranging criticism of the way lecturers are trained.

Ofsted is accused of failing to understand the difference between what is required of a lecturer compared with a schoolteacher.

The Association of Colleges' annual conference in Birmingham last week heard Alan Johnson, the further and higher education minister, announce that there would be a review of the training of post-16 teachers, which is carried out in FE colleges and universities.

His announcement was presented as a response to Ofsted's report, but the review has been in the pipeline for several months and the AoC is beginning to worry about what ministers have hidden up their sleeves.

It fears the Government will attempt to pull colleges into line by applying school standards.

Ivor Jones, director of employment policy at the AoC, said: "The Government's plans have some serious implications.

"We have 230,000 employees but more than half of them are part-timers, often drawn from industry and commerce.

"It is one of the great characteristics of the sector that colleges are able to connect so closely to business. We are very concerned that undue demands for training and qualifications will act as a deterrent for many professionals who want to undertake a small amount of college teaching, or to spend a short period of time teaching before returning to their industry.

"We do not want to see the imposition of a schools model of teacher training inhibiting our ability to recruit and retain good lecturers and trainers."

Ofsted's report also criticised the training standards laid down by the Further Education National Training Organisation for a lack of clarity.

But Fento, whose standards are the result of wide consultation, defended them. David Hunter chief executive, said the standards were designed so as not to be too "prescriptive".

But Susan Edge, Fento's standards verification manager, admitted that some of the language needs to changed from "FE speak" - a hangover, she said, from the days of the Further Education Funding Council.

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