A TESLancaster University survey probed the public's views on the sector's performance. Ian Nash reports its findings
Diligent detective work has unearthed the secret diary of my old lecturing chum, Samuel Gullible.
Written in the dying days of local authority control, it seems Samuel was looking forward to "independence".
Monday: Hallelujah! Glory be! I wake this morning to the certain knowledge that this will be the last week of my life spent under the oppressive yoke of the local authority. What do they know about colleges anyway? All they care about is schools, schools, schools. They think FE stands for "Fundless Entity".
Tuesday: We file dutifully into the lecture theatre for the principal's address. He calls it his "declaration of independence" (muted laughter). He says he doesn't expect to get anything from it personally, but it will be good for the college and good for lecturers (restrained applause). Then he says the builders will be moving in tomorrow to start extending his office and "upgrading the plumbing", whatever that means! We shouldn't worry though, he says he'll still be the same old open-door principal (though we'll have to call him "chief executive"). To see him we must book-in at least a month in advance.
Wednesday: Have a run-in with Dibbs, our NATFHE secretary. Dibbs thinks independence is a con. We'll just be a plaything of John Major, and the funding council will end up screwing us all. I tell him it will be good for the college and good for lecturers. And that the difference between him and me is that I see the cup as being half full while he sees it as half empty. That shuts him up!
Thursday: Have a run-in with Dobbs the little Hitler who runs the finance office. He says I haven't ticked the right boxes. He never says anything else. I tell him that he'll be the first for the chop under the new regime. That it'll be goodbye to all the accountants and petty bureaucrats and that teaching will be the thing from now on.
Friday: D-day minus three. I'm looking at a photograph of this Roger Ward character. Apparently he's going to be the new boss of all the college bosses. He's got a kind face I think. Dibbs says he's a hatchet man. That he's been chosen to see off NATFHE and hammer the lecturers into the ground. Come on Dibbs, I say, he can't wield a hatchet and a hammer! Oh can't he? says Dibbs. Look, I say, he's a reasonable man. What do you think he's going to do: sack half the workhorse and double the load on the rest? He'll be good for colleges, I say. And good for lecturers. Won't he?
Stephen Jones is a lecturer in a London FE college
* The research was carried out by director John Wakeford and Margaret Bayman, Lynne Boundy, George Green, Jo Guiver, Liz Hampson and Blue Yardley