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Settle this strike

When the first national college pay strike for 10 years gets third billing on Radio 4's Today programme, then surely the sector has at last discarded Cinderella's clothes.

But hang on a moment, the previous evening a prime-time Radio 4 debate on education and the election manifestos was held in Sutton Coldfield College. And what was the single topic of conversation? Schools.

Schools remain the focus of current debate on the new A and AS-levels, despite FE being the overwhelming provider. Come September, most univrsity entrants will come from FE. If college lecturers have done so well by middle England, why aren't they paid the rate?

The timing of the strike in the run-up to the general election is opportunistic. But then, with pound;3,000 less than teachers for the same job - and shorter holidays - they have a point. If the lecturers in NATFHE and employers in the Association of Colleges are incapable of reaching a settlement, then the next Secretary of State must intervene swiftly, for the sake of 3.5 million students.

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