FAILING colleges should be given a breathing space of a year - with no compulsory redundancies - to give staff a chance to turn them round, NATFHE, the lecturers' union, said this week.
Paul Mackney, general secretary, has written to David Blunkett, Education Secretary, saying that it was the lecturers who had exposed the franchising "scams" which had led to "fantasy expansion" in some colleges. It was disgraceful, he says, that after their warnings had gone unheeded, they now face redundancy through no fault of their own. If there has to be compulsory redundancies the Further Education Funding Council should fund the release of early retirement pensions for those over 50, says the letter.
Mr Mackney welcomes the Government's interventionist approach and the crackdown on incompetent colleges, but says in the letter that it would prove counter-productive if it alienates the very people who could put matters right. In recent years staff had been harassed and muzzled, he says. He calls for a statutory right for staff representatives to be consulted at local, regional and national levels.
He adds that inadequate funding had led to colleges being encouraged to "pile-em-deep, teach-em-cheap". It was the FEFC which had exhorted cash-strapped colleges to enter into many of the franchising agreements, he says.