FE white paper is good news

7th April 2006 at 01:00
It is a shame the headline on the further education white paper focused on the unlikely possibility of college principals being sacked (LSC chiefs will fire "coasting principals", FE Focus, March 31) rather than on the radical proposals it contains.

The white paper acknowledged the end of the "failing college" era, with less than 2 per cent of colleges now falling into that category. This is to be celebrated: any other part of the public sector would be delighted at such progress. Nevertheless, the drive to improve quality continues and, rightly, in the view of the Association for College Management, is a major component of the white paper.

As Bill Rammell MP, the further and higher education minister, made clear at the Network for Black Managers' conference this week, a wide range of actions will be deployed to support satisfactory colleges in their quest to achieve excellence: removal of principals and college governing bodies will be very much a last resort, a view enthusiastically endorsed by Learning and Skills Council chiefs.

In any event, the changes to employment legislation that would be required to enable the LSC to sack principals they don't actually employ would take years to enact: a fact that everyone cheerfully acknowledges. The unsuccessful attempts of various home secretaries to dismiss police commissioners jumps to mind.

ACM warmly welcomes the first-ever further education white paper. We don't agree with all it contains but we accept that the Government is now genuinely taking the skills agenda seriously. Now, more than ever, is the time for everyone in FE to focus on challenges presented in the white paper. That is certainly what ACM will be encouraging its members to do.

Peter Pendle Chief executive and general secretary Association for College Management

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