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The link that might sink Roger Ward

The TES investigation into a link between Roger Ward, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, and the ELS lecturers agency comes in the week before the AOC's annual conference in Harrogate.

It is sure to re-ignite the controversy over agency status for lecturers which has dogged industrial relations in the colleges for several years.

Education Lecturing Services supplies colleges with self-employed lecturers to meet the need for part-time and temporary support in Britain's colleges. Colleges are free to decide for themselves which, if any agency, to use, but ELS, which was endorsed by the Colleges Employers Forum, obviously has more clout.

Kevin McNeany, chairman of Nord Anglia Education plc, one of the country's largest education businesses, this week called for the resignation of Mr Ward.

He has accused Mr Ward of duping his company into revealing commerciall y sensitive information in 1995 when Mr Ward was chief executive of the CEF.

Last week Paul Foot, in Private Eye magazine, revealed that a representat ive of ELS was present at a meeting when Nord Anglia was bidding for a similar endorsement.

But Private Eye has revealed only part of the story. The TES has seen documents which show the full involvement of Mr Ward with ELS and a network of Derbyshire business people.

These revelations are significant because Mr Ward has always insisted that ELS is just one of a number of companies in the market place.

He has repeatedly denied any commercial or financial link between CEF and ELS. Other companies could and did seek approval or endorsement from the CEF but, he maintains, only ELS passed the test by fulfilling certain criteria.

But the TES has evidence to show that the CEF was involved right at the beginning with the organisation that became ELS. Far from being objective about agencies which might supply lecturers to colleges, Mr Ward has consistently promoted one, and one alone, ELS.

He has been assiduous in that promotion, and in getting business for ELS. He sought endorsements from an education minister and has proposed to ELS that it expand.

Mr Ward has forwarded information sent to him by the colleges to ELS. And Nord Anglia has accused him of copying its correspondence and supplying it to ELS.

Mr Ward told The TES: "It is absolutely true that we have promoted ELS. There were no nationwide providers of temporary lecturers and ELS came forward with their proposals. We were in close contact with ELS and worked out independently of ELS strict criteria."

What follows is the full story of Mr Ward and the ELS.

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