Graham Fowler eavesdrops on a discussion between the Education Minister and his personal secretary

6th July 2007 at 01:00

Secretary: The idea of compelling students to stay in education or training until the age of 18 is attracting considerable attention, Minister.

Minister: Great isn't it? They can't say this policy is being ignored.

Secretary: That is not an undiluted blessing. There is a degree of dissent.

Minister: Well, a little healthy debate is a good thing.

Secretary: That is not usual government policy, Minister. The standard approach is to announce policy on a busy news day, hoping no one notices before the consultation period ends and policy is implemented.

Minister: Never fear. I won't be listening to what people say.

Secretary: Usually that would be a relief. However, in this case opponents do have some valid points. The CfBT Education Trust says that colleges with a choice will opt out of handling students who are scarcely in the system at 16, let alone 18.

Minister: Should I be bothered about that? We don't need a bog-standard sector. There's much to be said for sink colleges.

Secretary: Why would you want that?

Minister: So they can be deemed unacceptable and brought under central control.

Secretary: Central control!

Minister: Perhaps not, not directly anyway. But these underperforming colleges will need to be taken over by another college. A good one, mind. One well aware of government plans.

Secretary: Yet the colleges aren't really underperforming, are they? They may actually be doing rather well. They only become "underperforming" once you implement a policy that directs students to them who may be better off outside the education system.

Minister: That's about right. A rather neat way of ensuring all colleges are following the government line, don't you think?

Secretary: It hardly seems fair, Minister.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today