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One inspectorate? - it's news to us

The Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) is surprised at last week's TES report that George Sweeney's bureaucracy task force was recommending the creation of a single inspectorate.

We have yet to agree any recommendation. The report is right to say "simplification can be achieved without legislation". The Learning and Skills Act is only three years old and it is naive to think major primary legislation will be swept away so soon.

Far from ruffling feathers at the ALI, as the report suggested, its board and executive directors would welcome simpler arrangements for the junction between inspection and provision for children and adults.

We work successfully with colleagues in the Office for Standards in Education, but we realise that we need distinctions between inspecting sixth-form colleges, where most students are 16 to 18 and full-time, and general FE colleges where most are over 19 and part-time. The Act does not clearly recognise these differences and the inspectorates have had to do their best to compensate. If the task force can contribute to a long-term resolution, without throwing out the baby with the bathwater, we will be delighted.

FE colleges with a range of funding streams, accountabilities and partnerships were not foreseen in the Act. They attract auditors from every funding agency, and that is where the bureaucracy problems arise. If a single inspectorate could cover all a college's work in one inspection, everyone would benefit. As it is, no one outside the college has a full picture of its activities. Bureaucracy-busting calls for colleges and inspectors to work together more closely.

Nick Perry Director of Inspectorate and member of the bureaucracy task force

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