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Exposing the seedy underbelly of the sector

The uninitiated could be forgiven for labouring under the misconception that FE is, perhaps, a bit dull. The acronyms, the funding streams, the bureaucratic complexities... It all sounds a bit more HNC than SM (that's Higher National Certificate, do keep up).

But don't be fooled. FErret has long harboured suspicions that, beneath its professional, functional exterior, the sector is a hotbed of scandal and sexual intrigue.

A new novel, The Further Education of Mike Carter, promises to finally expose the seedy underbelly of FE. Penned by Richard Ayres, a former lecturer, trade union representative and vice-principal of Newcastle College, the book - according to the publisher, at least - "is packed with enough shenanigans to keep any reader entertained".

Mike Carter, the book's protagonist, has built up a reputation as "the leader of the pack, scourge of college management, seducer of students, colleagues and wives of colleagues".

But, approaching 60, things have started to go awry. "The younger lecturers are no longer in thrall to him, his powers of seduction are declining, and those whom he has offended over the years, sensing his diminishing influence, are seeking to exact revenge." A fear frequently shared by FErret when he attends functions with the FE glitterati.

When the young female principal of the fictional Streetbridge College imposes a new code of dress and behaviour, Mike vows to reassert his waning influence.

"However," the publisher's blurb continues, "the politics of the workplace are muddied by events in the personal lives of the protagonists, and by antagonisms and jealousies between individuals, generations and competing interest groups. When sexual tension is added to the mix, the outcome is unpredictable." Gulp.

"I drew on people I knew in my younger days as a lecturer," the 69-year-old author told his local newspaper, The Sentinel in Stoke. "I've taken facets of their personalities. When you work in a big institution, you see all sorts."

We bet you do, Richard. Given the recent furore at Newcastle College when Ofsted inspectors were asked to leave midway through an inspection, FErret can only imagine what scandal occurs behind the hallowed institution's workshop doors.

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