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Private sector qualifications are not about portable education

FE Focus allowed almost a whole page for David Fairhurst to present the McDonald's view of post-16 education (Feburary 8). He claims its motives in launching its QCA-recognised scheme are to meet the needs of young people. Further on, however, he perhaps reveals its true motivations when he talks about the application of mathematics, for example, being about "margins, percentages and yields".

In a letter in the same issue, John Westmoreland of York College describes the McDonald's initiative as "another step towards wholesale privatisation of education", and he is right. This is a glaring example of FE, the Cinderella service, being left at home with the underfunded limp lettuce and cold fries while the ugly sisters, like McDonald's and other big businesses, get to go to the ball arm in arm with Gordon Brown's government.

What's wrong with the McDonald's initiative? Well, how portable are these qualifications going to be in practice?

It is in the interests of private sector providers to minimise portability, because why waste training on people who might then go elsewhere?

Will young people be able to take these "A-level equivalent" qualifications to HE institutions to pursue degrees? How broad is the curriculum? What about the learning environment itself, something intangible but very valuable for young people in a college environment?

No doubt according to Mr Brown and his education ministers the McDonald's programme is all about fostering general "contestability" and the market between colleges, but it has very little to do with fostering genuine education for the hundreds of thousands of young people in our FE colleges who want to come out with worthwhile and portable qualifications.

- Howard Miles, Bradford College and University and College Union national executive.

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