Horses fall at mighty administration hurdle

17th January 1997 at 00:00
The accreditation of adult education is now par for many courses. From the start of last term my creative writing classes are included.

A friendly head of adult education persuaded me one hot June afternoon that accreditation would be a good career move for me. Then, through his study window we both watched transfixed as a man with a cardboard box over his head stalked round a nearby roof, fending off attacking gulls as he tried to repair the chimney. We later came to regard this incident as a coded warning.

Theoretically, accreditation makes enormous sense. Cheaper courses for adult students, additional cred for the course itself, a route back into higher education and marginally more money for lowest-paid teachers, the part-timers in adult education. However, it falls at the first hurdle, one that is now as big as the Grand National's feared Becher's Brook - administration. During the term I realised that the heaviest duty of my supposedly enhanced teaching role was form filling.

Without doubt, the new gods of the 90s are administrators. I was almost apoplectic one evening as I watched an administrator take half an hour out of a two-hour teaching session to have students fill in three separate forms. The previous week these students had completed two other forms so this was not the first encroachment on teaching time.

Form filling reached its height for me at the end of term when I found I was faced with four forms for each of the seven accredited courses I run for nearly 100 students.

All the protests about time being better spent on students' work and planning fell on deaf ears. As did my requests to the Central Access Network (CAN) at the University of Warwick for a moderator for our courses.

Then came burdensome requests from CAN for me to take part in various academic meetings throughout the term. For this service I would not be paid. The meetings usually clashed with teaching so they were never serious rivals to compete with the form-filling activity.

In mid-December a letter arrived from CAN which detailed a new procedure and informed me that I had filled in obsolete forms - the very ones issued by them three months previously. I was now required to fill in the new computerised forms.

Apoplexy struck again as my earlier forms were returned with a request for the non-existent moderator to confirm my assessments before certificates could be issued on a course which had ended two weeks previously.

It's unlikely my students will be much moved by their non-certificated status. They weren't impressed in the first place, waxing eloquent about what they thought of academia. They had simply wanted to develop their writing skills so even saving cash was shrugged off as unimportant.

My reaction this term has been to put my head in a cardboard box which contained a lot of paper (forms). And perhaps the attacking gulls are like me - environmentally-friendly and a believer in the Cosmic Joker. Time to go and get canned!

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