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Employers back unions on salaries;FE Focus

UNIONS battling over pay and conditions in a number of colleges will be cheered to hear that the employers are on their side.

The Association of Scottish Colleges acknowledges that better salaries and training are needed in its response to the Scottish Office paper on lifelong learning, Opportunity Scotland.

"Colleges need scope to more adequately reward, motivate and develop both teaching and non-teaching staff," the association states. But it is particularly concerned that FE lecturers are not to benefit from the lottery-funded IT training programme for school staff and librarians.

"Staff need opportunities to retrain and adapt for new demands such as IT, development of distance and open learning materials and co-operation with other sectors," the submission states.

"It is disappointing that FE colleges have not been included from the outset in the scheme to train teachers in the use of IT. ASC urges the inclusion of FE lecturers as a matter of urgency."

The association also calls for a reduction in "excessively burdensome" quality audits of colleges. It says there is an "assurance overload" with repeated, often duplicated, processes of scrutiny by different agencies.

It calls on the FE funding council and the Scottish Qualifications Authority to take the lead in allowing colleges greater scope for initial self-evaluation, reporting by the colleges themselves and independent validation only when necessary.

The ASC also points out that the quality audits, which put a premium on student achievement and retention, could run counter to the Government's aims for lifelong learning which are about wider access and taking on students for no recognised qualification.

FE chiefs are also looking for a simplification of New Deal rules for unemployed 18-24s, many of whom have chosen full-time education and training in college as their preferred option.

Many such students, the ASC states, need "a firmer basis of learning" before they are ready to move into jobs. But college funding has to be more realistic for this to take place.

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