Nowhere to hide in colleges

I am dismayed that a senior member of the teaching profession in the secondary sector can display such ignorance about what goes on in the further education sector (TES, Letters, October 30). Richard T Ford claims of his school that "no student is able to hide in the way that they can in the larger more anonymous world of the college".

Where is this large anonymous world where students are not able to develop interpersonal skills? I have had 12 years experience in each sector and would not generalise about either. I can only speak from my own experience and say that the pastoral care systems I have encountered in FE are more comprehensive and wide-ranging than those in schools.

At Warwickshire College there is a cross-college pastoral system for students on all programmes in a common slot on the timetable. For A-level students this involves a weekly meeting with a personal tutor and regular progress checks comparing current performance with agreed targets. There is regular contact with parents and a number of reports sent home and parents' evenings during the course. In addition the college has a fully staffed student services unit through which students can access careers advice, HE advice, a counsellor, a nurse and a range of other support services. We provide an extensive post-A level results service which is used by non-college students from across the region in addition to our own students. The college is staffed throughout the summer holiday period which is not always the case with schools.

The results obtained are comparable with the local schools and we achieve considerable success with students who have been rejected by schools. And no, we do not recruit just to increase numbers. We offer an extensive pre-course interview and guidance service and have a wide range of courses for students for whom the A-level programme is considered not appropriate.

M W Colley Programme area manager Warwickshire College Leamington Spa Warwickshire FE Letters, page30

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