BELEAGUERED sixth-form colleges have welcomed a Government U-turn on legislation which will allow them to induct newly-qualified teachers.
Malcolm Wicks, lifelong learning minister, announced the move at the annual meeting of the Sixth-Form College Employers' Forum in Birmingham. He described the legislation as "an anomaly that would be amended."
Forum members said this would help colleges which have seen a haemorrhage of teachers who, fed up with comparative lower pay, have moved into schools. Last year 158 teachers were lost to schools. Only 120 teachers were recruited.
Teachers will now be able to take their one-year induction in sixth-form and FE colleges, providing the college can demonstrate it meets the standards.
Sue Whitham, the forum's general secretary, said: "We are delighted that the Government has listened. This should benefit our recruitment in the future."
During the meeting Mr Wicks criticised the disparities between college self-assessment and those made by the Further Education Funding Council inspectors. He said that only 59 per cent of self-assessed grades matched the inspectors', and urged the forum to narrow the difference.
Absenteeism in FE is one of the areas which worries the funding council most, said Mr Wicks, citing a level of 17 per cent at sixthform colleges.
But principals at the meeting were quick to argue that the FEFC does not check where students are at the time of inspections. Dr Kevin Conway, principal of Greenhead, a beacon sixth-form college in Huddersfield, said: "The figure is probably much nearer 10 per cent as the FEFC does not include students on field trips and conferences."
Ms Whitham said: "We dispute the basis of the FEFC statistics. There should be different
categories for both absenteeism and retention, but this is part of a dispute which needs to be resolved."
Jim Donaldson of the FEFC said: "Our figures show that last year there was a 65 per cent agreement rate between the FEFC inspectors and the entire FE sector, not just sixth-form colleges. One of our main disagreements is that sixth-form colleges pay insufficient attention to student retention and achievement rates.
"In terms of governance, management and quality assuarance, they award themselves very good grades which we do not always agree with. But we are working towards a common inspection agenda."