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Lecturers deserve a better deal

In a way, we might expect Tony Blair to score poorly out of 10, as our survey reveals, for the Government's record on further education. After all, it is part of a Prime Minister's job description to be accused of not doing enough - even in quarters where his ministers have done the most.

But let us cast our minds back to 1997, when we watched live on television the spectacle of a Labour Prime Minister being driven from his home in Islington to Number 10 as the party gained power for the first time in 18 years.

It was the beginning of the "third way" - the big "New Labour" idea which, among other things, attempted to marry the interests of the business world to the cause of equality of opportunity.

Old Labour supporters suspected a sell-out and Tories suspected a Trojan horse of old-fashioned socialism behind the facade of Tony's Colgate smile.

No doubt, both groups will have found something over the past 10 years to prove themselves right.

But if the third way really did exist, the most convincing evidence is surely to be found in FE. No other part of the public sector has been more proactive in dovetailing the needs of business with social cohesion.

There have been casualties - the most unacceptable of which has been the continuing deterioration of the pay levels of lecturers compared with school teachers.

In the comments they made in our survey, lecturers put the needs of the country ahead of the issue of pay - as they do in their working lives every day.

But they deserve better.

A government damaged by Iraq, the cash for peerages controversy and the questionable dealings of some of its ministers has reason to reward a body of people whose dedication has done more than any spin doctor could do to repair its tarnished image.

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