Blunkett seeks to widen his powers;FE Focus

24th September 1999 at 01:00
INSPECTION of adult education and training courses will be run by a quango directly accountable to the Department for Education and Employment, under plans being considered by ministers.

Education Secretary David Blunkett also wanted his powers extended to include the Office for Standards in Education, according to senior government advisers. But it is understood that the move was blocked by the "powerful friends of Chris Woodhead in No 10".

Restricted policy documents obtained by The TES reveal the extent to which Tony Blair is committed to school-style inspection for colleges. One paper points to the need to "develop a strong standards agenda in further education and incentives to focus colleges on the needs of 16 to 19-year-olds".

Under post-16 reforms in the White Paper, Learning to Succeed, Ofsted takes over inspection of courses for 16 to 19-year-olds, and a new inspectorate will take over the rest currently carried out by the Further Education Funding Council and Training and Skills Council.

But both must work to a common framework and it seems clear that Chris Woodhead will be given the upper hand.

The threat of an Ofsted-dominated inspection agenda has provoked near universal hostility among education leaders. The anger will surface today at the Association of Colleges' national conference on the White Paper.

A powerful lobby of sixth-form colleges - much favoured by Tony Blair - plans to call on ministers to back off so that the "best" of the FEFC inspection regime is not killed off by the reforms.

Sue Whitham, general secretary of the Sixth Form Colleges Employers Forum, said retaining college self-assessment was "important, not just to ensure proper comparisons, not just for funding, but for performance".

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, has called for a radical shift from the Ofsted model towards college-style inspections.

"We have wanted for some time to move to school self-assessment, with external inspections used as a rigorous check. This would create the best framework for all schools and colleges."

Full exclusive story, page II

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