MINISTERS have come under fire from Stephen Grix, the post-16 chief inspector, for paying lecturers "peanuts", misquoting official statistics and unfairly penalising colleges.
Mr Grix delivered a devastating series of criticisms in his swansong speech to college managers as he prepared to quit the Office for Standards in Education. He takes up his new post as chief education officer for Tower Hamlets next month.
He accused university inspectors of double standards when judging higher education teaching in further education colleges. He challenged lifelong learning minister Margaret Hodge's interpretation of official figures on college success. And he warned that schools were in for a shock as tougher, fairer, inspections revealed a disturbing number of failing sixth forms.
But it was on the question of pay that Mr Grix made his most strident criticism, citing the experiences of his own daughter - a newly-qualified PGCE teacher. "She saw an advertisement to teach history at a school on pound;20,000 a year, a pound;200-a-month loyalty bonus and pound;100 a month to pay off her student loan," he said.
"It's a huge difference to colleges," he said in his address to the annual conference of the Association for College Management. "My daughter also got the flyer for FE, sent to new teachers, offering pound;13,500. It's peanuts. If we are ever going to get quality improvement, we have to look carefully at what we pay teachers."
A new survey by the ACM suggests that the Government's failure to move swiftly on low pay in colleges has eroded rates at all levels. Peter Pendle, general secretary of the association, said: "The average FE manager is now pound;6,000 worse off than the equivalent manager outside the sector."
Mr Grix also urged "extreme caution" when talking about success rates in colleges. While not citing Ms Hodge, he left no doubt in the mind of his audience that that was where his ire was targeted.
"Success rates give a totally false impression, and the National Audit Office (which produced the data recently quoted by Ms Hodge) has said as much.
"It is a particular worry when talking to people who don't have an FE background and hearing what they say about success rates."
Ms Hodge was due to speak to an Association of Colleges' conference for governors this week, where it was expected that she would repeat criticisms that students had only a 50:50 chance of success and that 40 per cent of colleges required full or partial re-inspection.
Again, Mr Grix rejected such interpretation of his own figures when addressing the ACM. "Take the figures apart and you find 11 per cent judged outstanding, 47 per cent good and 35 per cent satisfactory. The remaining 7 per cent doesn't particularly worry me. If you had asked me before, I would have put it much higher."
Mr Grix also expressed concern over new "lighter-touch inspections" that gave universities an easy time compared with colleges when judging HE.
"A Quality Assurance Agency inspection system which is lighter on universities is not lighter on colleges. The problem is that I am not allowed to comment on HE. Chris Woodhead (former chief inspector) got into enormous trouble for saying that OFSTED should be able to comment on HE."
ACM conference reports, 39