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No 'witch-hunt' for FE failures

AN INVESTIGATION into the management of FE colleges will be "neither a whitewash nor a witch-hunt", the chairman of the Scottish Further Education Funding Council has made clear.

Bob Beattie was speaking as the council launched a series of initiatives and consultations designed to mark a new era of "openness and consultation" in a sector marred by funding disputes and industrial strife. Three principals have left or are about to depart from troubled colleges.

Mr Beattie would not be drawn on his views of college management, saying the council's enquiries were just starting. But he said: "Ministers clearly believe something may be amiss, otherwise they would not have set up the review. It is the case that some colleges have adjusted to the new world more easily than others."

The review would be designed to enhance best practice in management and help those who fell short. "It will not just be about college principals but all management including human resource management."

Mr Beattie outlined a number of other initiatives first revealed in The TES Scotland last month. He confirmed a thoroughgoing overhaul of the calculation and distribution of funding which needed to be made more "sustainable and predictable". But there would be no overnight change to avoid creating instability.

The council intends to pay out the annual college grants in academic rather than financial years from August next year. Colleges were issued with proposals this week on how these changes can be achieved.

Mr Beattie also announced a learning and teaching committee to develop an "integrated quality improvement framework". But he stressed this would be about "continuous quality improvement not continuous counting". The committee will have widening access as part of its remit and will be chaired by Michael Thorne, vice-principal of Napier University.

A strategic development committee has been given responsibility for deciding how to spend the three pound;1 million funds established by the Scottish Office to encourage rationalisation and mergers, new provision and innovation.

The changes were welcomed by the Association of Scottish Colleges, which has long argued for more consultation and transparency in decisions about FE.

Lecturers in fighting mood, FE Focus, page 23

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