The issues from those who make it happen

29th April 2005 at 01:00
Ann Robinson, principal of Woodhouse college, a sixth-form college in Finchley, north London "We are a bit better off financially than we were, but a lot more kids have come out the other end, too.

"But the funding gap between school sixth forms is still wide. The Government concedes it is at least 10 per cent, but I'd say it was more like 20 per cent. If we had that money, we'd be able to reduce class sizes from the current 20 students to around 16. We'd also reduce the workload of teachers and pay them more.

"My strategy for dealing with the extra bureaucracy is to do only what is necessary and do as much as possible myself. For example, we get a questionnaire from a different quango every other day. They are worthy, but I only do those that are essential.

"Ideally, I'd like to spend less time at my desk and more time talking to students, staff and trying to support the core business.

"We are affected by the same employment law as all businesses. I have to write risk management strategies, audit reports and so on. It seems crazy because we are successful and have been for many years. We get audited by accountants, the Learning and Skills Council and the Office for Standards in Education. You want to tell them: 'Don't you know we are OK?'"

Ian Pryce, principal of Bedford college "We have doubled our income in the past five years from pound;10 million to pound;20m annually. Our staff numbers have gone from 270 to 500 and we've seen student numbers up from 7,000 to around 13,000. We have had to earn it, but it's a good thing that the money has been available, and we've been able to meet demand which we couldn't before.

"Also, we've expanded our activity with 14 to 16-year-olds. We now have about 540 coming one day a week. Around 60 do not go to school - they spend two days a week here and two days a week at work. For some, school attendance goes up because they see the value of education.

"The demise of three-year funding was a disappointment. We cannot plan with confidence now because we don't know whether there will be money available to fund the same number of adults as last year.

"We are encouraged to invest in training our own workforce. That gives staff confidence and ability to deal with students and makes them feel valued."

John Stout, sales and marketing director of the Hotel and Catering Training company "We are a national provider in the hospitality industry, and 98 per cent of our business is delivering NVQs and work-based assessment. We do everything from restaurants to bars, but our expertise is in the kitchen.

"The biggest thing for us has been the emergence of the LSC, which simplifies things.

"We have problems with some aspects, like trying to convince a head chef it is worthwhile for trainees to have maths and English skills. But it undeniably improves their career prospects.

"Employer training pilots have been good. One of the problems four years ago was that some employers avoided training initiatives as they seemed to favour 16 to 24-year-olds.

"The working population is greying and the employer training pilots open things up. But the scheme goes national next year, so we're now in a hiatus."

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