Editor's comment

7th July 2006 at 01:00
Do colleges really need a new "star rating" to denote excellence or inadequacy? They already have a range of quality measures, from Beacon status and inspection grades to exam league tables. Now, some bright spark in the Department for Education and Skills wants a new star system.

This scheme has already been tried in local authorities to howls of derision. It is absurd, therefore, to offer this to colleges in a week when former Education Secretary Ruth Kelly - now in charge of local government - has admitted that councils are overloaded with targets and performance measures.

If "stars" were to sweep away all other measures and result in a big cut to the pound;500m bureaucracy burden on colleges, it would make sense. But this is clearly not the intention. Evidence from local councils shows it would add to the cost and increase red tape. Hence, as we report on page three, principals are furious with the idea.

Colleges and training companies have a lot to mull over this summer with the new strategy from the Quality Improvement Agency and Agenda for Change from the Learning and Skills council going out for consultation.

Both offer great promise, with measured consideration and reform over three years. Both pledge to cut bureaucracy and reach clearer definitions of what the multifarious quangos and agencies in further education should (and should not) do.

So, when would the star rating be introduced? If the DfES waited until the end of the three-year development plan, such a system would be unnecessary.

However, if it were rushed through earlier, using current performance criteria, it would only add to the burden of bean counting and red tape.

There is a clear need for performance measures and some targets. It is also essential that such measures are constantly criticised, reassessed and redefined. But they should not be eternally added to.

Also, if they are to be introduced, they should be for every player in FE.

If the stars are so good, why leave school sixth forms out of the picture.

After all, they will compete with colleges and training centres for a share of the 14-19 diploma work.

Lastly, whom are these ratings for? The suggestion is that employers, individuals and communities will be better informed when making choices.

Really? Aren't they more likely to look at the evidence of performance within the individual departments or areas of interest?

Yet again, this looks like a government solution to a problem that really does not exist.

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