Editor's Comment

7th April 2006 at 01:00
From this week, the garden of FE has become a much simpler place in which to play. There is now a single Quality Improvement Agency to advise successful colleges on how to excel and to rescue failing colleges from the scrapheap.

Last week, the FE white paper spelled out the improvement task ahead. This week, ministers launched the QIA to do the job. The Department for Education and Skills standards unit, Learning and Skills Council and others are to pull out of quality improvement work.

If colleges falter, it will be no good their crying on Mother Kelly's doorstep that they have been hard done by. She is letting go her once neglected middle child to play free. Only Uncle Andrew "Andy" Thomson, QIA boss, will be there to give a helping hand across troubled streets and keep other quango bullies at bay.

And, if the college girls and boys do well, Auntie LSC will be around to dish out lots of sweeties.

All auntie needs is assurance from Uncle Andy that they have done their best. And hasn't he already promised to be a "critical friend" and "honest broker"?

Unfortunately, fairy stories have a habit of turning nasty. Bullies don't willingly give up, nor do quangos readily relinquish often hard-won controls. There must be a clear demonstration - not of intent but action - by other interested quangos.

But responsibility is not all with the quangos. Mother Kelly may have told Uncle Andy to get on with it, but the QIA does not have a legally sanctioned exclusive remit on the streets. Colleges don't have to take his guiding hand.

However, they should. This is one opportunity for college managers and staff to gather round one willing helper and tell the bullies where to go.

Strength in numbers.

Others will try to entice them away. Remember, children, the story of Chicken Licken who read the runes wrong when an acorn hit him on the head.

He ran to tell the King the sky was falling in. Along the way, he gathered lots of support from Turkey Lurky, Ducky Lucky, Henny Penny and the whole farmyard.

"Let me show you a quick way," said dirty Foxy Loxy from quango-land.

Foolishly, they trusted him and ended up as one big lunch.

So take action now. Uncle Andy offers a chance finally to shake off Foxy Loxy, Auntie LSC, Mother Kelly and Uncle Tom Cobbly and all.

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