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Consultants have a role, so don't overburden lecturers

George Arkless consultant, Walthamstow, north-east London

Over a number of years Stephen Jones has used his column to denigrate attempts at quality improvement, the inspection process and more recently the role of consultants. Now he has demonstrated one of the reasons why consultants may have a useful function (FE Focus, September 7).

He has selectively quoted one piece of research which indicates that collaboration amongst college practitioners is a useful way to bring about improvements. I have to say that this is a bit like an amazing revelation about the toilet habits of bears in wooded areas.

There is a lot more research out there that most practitioners do not have the time to keep abreast of.

I have been involved in supporting similar collaborative activities as part of the Learning and Skills Network quality improvement projects. It is fantastic to see people working together enthusiastically to solve common problems. My role was that of a catalyst and change agent and I was also able to bring some support, knowledge and information to the party.

If all colleges and other training providers were able to solve their problems without assistance, why are there not many more excellent providers? While large colleges may have the resources and expertise at their disposal, not all of the smaller providers do.

Before there is a "let's all become plumbers" type of rush into consultancy, I should warn others contemplating a career change that Mr Jones's view of life as a consultant is somewhat rosy.

I have well over 30 years experience of the sector and people with that level of experience would expect, on average, to be earning around pound;40,000 plus. Most college years involve 198 days of work. This gives a daily rate of around pound;200.

The going rate for most consultancy is around pound;400 a day. From this consultants have to provide and maintain a working space and facilities, pay for their own professional development, pay for professional liability insurance and provide for their own pension. They do not get sick pay or holiday pay. On top of this, there is no guarantee they will get any work at all.

While I think FE practitioners are right to be suspicious of outside interventions, I don't think the solution is to get people who are already overburdened to carry out the consultant's role on the cheap.

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