Blunkett balanced not off-message;Letter

6th August 1999 at 01:00
YOUR report (Blunkett "off message" TES, July 30) accuses David Blunkett of down-playing the business role at further education colleges shortly after the publication of the White Paper, in contrast with the dominant role to be played by business on the new Learning and Skills Council.

We consulted very extensively on our proposals for FE governing bodies last year, and published the results.

Business members will continue to be the largest single group on college governing bodies. But we have always been clear, in opposition and in government, about our responsibility to ensure a broader balance on governing bodies. The old arrangements allowed the complete exclusion of any voice for staff, students, local authorities and the local community. This cannot be right.

Many colleges did of course ensure that a broader and more balanced range of views could be brought to bear. But given the very well-publicised difficulties which some colleges have recently experienced, we make no apology for taking steps to re-balance governing bodies and improve their accountability.

Our reforms will allow the rest of the sector to come into line so that, at the highest level of college decision-making, the concerns of those that colleges serve can be brought to bear alongside those of business and employers.

There is no conflict between ensuring that a wide range of interests are represented on FE colleges' governing bodies as well as business and making clear that at least 40 per cent of the places on the new Learning and Skills Councils will be for business. The new arrangements mean that business plays an important role in both FE and training.

Tessa Blackstone Department for Education and Employment

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