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'I am very proud of my record . . .'

The Board of AOC today agreed to arrange for an independent scrutiny of my relationship with two service suppliers during the time when I was chief executive of CEF [Colleges' Employers' Forum]. I unreservedly welcome this initiative and I have told the board that the author of the report that has been commissioned will enjoy the fullest co-operation from me.

"This measure follows a relentless press campaign during which tired allegations about my leadership of CEF have been revived and repackaged clearly to coincide with the annual conference of the AOC and to embarrass me accordingly.

"I feel that I could not have been more co-operative with the journalists who have been pursuing me over this matter and it is tiresome to have to repeat so many denials and repudiations at a time when the AOC has so much important business to do. But in the interests of my good name, I am delighted that there is to be what I hope will become a once-and-for-all scrutiny of certain decisions I took when chief executive of CEF, decisions which are plainly still controversial to some people.

"I am very proud of my record of achievement in further education in the last few years, during which - with the support of my various boards - I believe I have helped the sector to modernise. This process of modernisation brought, I know only too well, a painful period of adjustment down on the whole industry and those who work in it. Being the focus of so much innuendo and personal attack was perhaps inevitable in these circumstances.

"I wish to do everything possible to help the sector progress further and to see AOC prosper without the constant drag of so much hostile press criticism, focused, as it has very cruelly been, on so many of the sector's leading personalities. For that very reason, though I receive more invitations to resign each week than your average Premier League football manager, I have no intention of accepting the latest one, or the next one, or the one after that.

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