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How to cut bias

The otherwise laudable article in FE Focus (TES, December 15) revealing the honourable response by careers officers to "biased schools" is marred by the statement attributed to Anthony Barnes, president of the National Association of Careers and Guidance Teachers.

It is surprising that an Office for Standards in Education inspector should be so ill-informed of the funding and operational realities of FE colleges. To describe FE marketing activities, which are essential to assist parents and pupils in making a fully-informed choice, as "hard sell" is unwarranted.

Colleges are significantly less well-funded than sixth forms. Despite this, it is necessary for colleges to allocate resources to marketing to ensure that the FE alternative is known to 16-year-olds. Schools with sixth forms do not need a marketing budget in order to influence their own Year 11 pupils.

The Department for Education and Employment has been supplied over many years with evidence of the barriers to access erected by some schools. Now the Institute of Careers Guidance has added weight to these messages. I urge the DFEE to insist on secondary schools holding a careers convention which would save public money and promote better-informed choices. All post-16 providers of education and training in the area should be invited to contribute to the convention. These events should be managed by the careers service.

If implemented, this proposal would result in a much reduced need for colleges to use already inadequate resources on marketing and an independent body in a position to expose any unprofessional practices.

ANDREW MIDDLETON

Principal Stamford College Drift Road Stamford Lincolnshire

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