Chief inspectors' double blow

17th December 2004 at 00:00
The characterisation of specialist colleges by the head of the adult learning inspectorate, David Sherlock, as "caring too much to educate" in FE Focus (November 26) is a highly misleading and sweeping caricature of a group of colleges, most of which make effective provision for learners with the most complex needs.

I was also dismayed to see the efforts of the sector characterised as "a national disgrace" by chief inspector David Bell, and concur wholeheartedly with the Association of Colleges that such language is inappropriate in a professional debate. It appears that, in their efforts to produce catchy soundbites, the two chief inspectors miss the best aspects of the work being done by specialist colleges.

Treloar, for example, has recently received beacon status from the Department for Education and Skills, while the National Star college recently won the RM Award for Leadership in Learning.

This AoC beacon award is for successful senior management teams who have developed vision, values, a strategy, continuous improvement and a measurement culture.

It would be disappointing, to say the least, if the unique contribution made by specialist colleges to an inclusive post-16 sector were to be stereotyped by the inspectors' statements. The interest of learners with learning difficulties and disabilities is best served by having an open and professional dialogue, not least about what constitutes best practice in this area, rather than couching the debate in such inflammatory language.

Kevin O'Brien Acting chief executive Association of National Specialist Colleges 39 Sanders Rd Quorn Loughborough Leicestershire

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