Protest over 'politically motivated' vetting

An aspiring member of the Scottish FE Funding Council has protested at questions about her political leanings in the Scottish Office application form.

Christine Oldfield, who runs a private maths tutorial and consultancy practice in Edinburgh, said she was "appalled". Such information had no bearing on whether she could do the job.

"I have to assume that applicants who have been involved with the Labour party are more likely than others to be appointed and that the council's activities will be politically motivated. This is unacceptable and contrary to the interests of further education in this country," she said.

A spokesman for the Association of Scottish Colleges said the procedure was not "an invention of this Government" but a requirement under the Nolan rules on disclosure for those seeking public appointments to quangos. "It is an attempt to ensure that information, which may be known by only one or two members of an interviewing panel, is above board and declared so it can be weighed appropriately," the ASC says.

But Mrs Oldfield, who has 30 years' secondary teaching experience in England and overseas, says the wording is at the very least ambiguous.

The form states: "In line with the recommendations of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, questions are included on the enclosed application form for statistical purposes relating to age, gender, disability and ethnic origin."

It says the data is designed to monitor the characteristics of people obtaining public appointments, and information may be disclosed when new quango members are announced.

But the form then goes on to state: "Your attention is drawn to the separate question on political activity." This gives the impression of being an additional category not laid down under the Nolan rules, Mrs Oldfield said.

She told The TES Scotland she had "probably decided" not to proceed with her application, because of the "political test". Her previous convictions were Conservative but, Mrs Oldfield added, she was not affiliated to any political party at present.

She admitted she has no experience or understanding of FE. In a move that raised college eyebrows, the Scottish Office "person specification" says an understanding "would be helpful but is not essential".

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