Centres for the chosen ones

4th May 2001 at 01:00
I wonder how many of your readers are aware of the consultation currently going on into centres of vocational excellence, which are intended to be placed within colleges, apparently as autonomous units. These specialist centres will employ "excellent" staff, and will "provide leadership in the development of future excellence".

The proposal seems to me to have been so badly thought through that it can only lead to a division into mainstream FE and and "specialist centres" of excellence. It also implies that widening participation has produced a situation that has lowered the standards of vocational FE, which can only be overcome by creating specialist centres of excellence, and that the provision of "excellent" education can only be achieved by a large injection of cash (pound;100 million in ths case).

Surely all FE colleges are aspiring to provide excellent education for all students, regardless of whether they are vocational students or not. They may not all achieve it, but to create elitist and divisive centres will not help. What of the teaching staff and students who are not selected for these centres? Are they to be considered less "excellent" than the chosen few?

It is interesting to see that the consultation paper does not ask whether the idea is a good one! I would suggest it should be scrapped and that the pound;100m be put to a more useful purpose, one that serves the needs of the whole college community (both vocational and non-vocational), such as college libraries and learning resource centres.

Jeff Cooper 122 Preston New Road Blackburn, Lancashire

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