23rd October 2009 at 01:00
Striking out amp; Divide and rule

Striking out

Officials at the Learning and Skills Council were confident there would be no repeat of last year's education maintenance allowance (EMA) fiasco, which led to the outsourcing firm Liberata being replaced by Capita.

And indeed they might have fixed the problem had it not been for that reliable source of frustration and delay, the Royal Mail.

Forums such as www.thestudentroom.co.uk are full of fed-up teenagers who are still waiting for payments, and sometimes even for the forms to apply, because of the postal strikes that have been crippling deliveries.

As one put it: "My tutor called my house last night at 8.30pm, telling me my attendance has dropped to 50 per cent! LOL. Guess the EMA scheme does work `cause last year my attendance was 99 per cent, haha, and I hated my subjects."

FErret can't help but feeling that the term "joined-up government" has taken on a sinister new meaning: when one agency fails to mess things up, another one can be relied on to take up the slack.

Divide and rule

And so to the House of Lords - where all that ermine can make a small mammal nervous - to hear Lord Baker bashing the Government's FE funding plans.

"FE colleges have one funding agency. In the future, they will have four. There will be constant need for consultations, constant discussions and it is a recipe for general warfare," he lamented.

How he calculates this is a mystery. Only four? There's the Skills Funding Agency and the Young People's Learning Agency. And Hefce, the HE funding body, but that's in the mix already. And what about the small matter of 150 local authorities? Not to mention the sub-regional partnerships (please, don't mention them).

All the same, since this is the man whose avowed aim as education secretary was to undercut teachers' power by forcing their unions to bargain with thousands of individual schools, he should recognise the tactics.

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