BAFTAs, Brits... we won them all

5th January 2001 at 00:00
That was the year that was. Was it special for you? Will you remember it as the Year of the Dome that died of Shame? A Wobbly Bridge too Far? The TECs that Time Forgot? Or will it go down as the year when further education scooped major awards at one luvvie-fest after another? Just think of the sector's record of triumph in 2000.

There was the glorious night of the Sports Personality of the Year. Admittedly, the surprise failure of David Melville to be nominated for the high jump was a set-back, but there was general satisfaction at the winner of the Michael Schumacher Award. This recognises outstanding achievement in going round in circles: the Further Education Development Agency was an acclaimed winner. The Steve Redgrave Award for going backwards as fast as possible was won hands down by the Further Education Funding Council, with voters mindful of the backtracking over the 2 per cent holdback and the U-turn on entry units for new students.

At the BAFTAs, Best Actor went to David Blunkett for his deadpan reaction to the resignation of Chris Woodhead. At a time when he must have wanted to do handsprings, he did his Buster Keaton impression impeccably.

At the Brits, the award for best new song was closely fought. The number written for the Brighton College's edge-of-town annexe "People will say we're in Hove" did well. But it could not match the energy of the New College Nottingham massed staff choir's rendition of the song about their principal and chief executive: "She is nothing like a Dame."

On reflection, the Most Promising Newcomer wa somewhat disappointing. There were just two nominations: Fretwell Downing's Managed Learning Environment was ruled out because all it promised was profit for Fretwell Downing and grief for colleges. The University for Industry, strongly fancied was excluded on the grounds that it was not a newcomer at all, being nothing more than FE with (computer) chips.

A flurry of literary awards included Travel Book of the Year for the lavishly-produced Round the World in 18 Days, the reminiscences of the former principal of Halton College. Unfortunately, he was not there to receive the prize.

Among children's books there was acclaim for the Cookery Book of the Decade, a collection of recipes by talented college finance directors.

In the biography section the panel decided on Paul Mackney's The Great Principals, which was described as "ambitious, if a little short".

The closest vote was for Best Work of Fiction. Third prize went to The Funding Methodology Explained: a Simple Guide for the Learning and Skills Council. Second was awarded to My Career in FE by John Harwood. The outright winner, by popular acclaim was The Bilston College ISR.

And we will all remember the courage shown by Team of the Year, the board of the Association of Colleges. Stung by accusations that nobody knows who they are or what they do, they have agreed to distribute a 2001 calendar to colleges. This will feature portraits of members, posing in the style made fashionable by the Women's Institute.

Michael Austin is principal of Accrington and Rossendale College

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