THE heart of the problems of malpractice, maladministration and fraud in FE colleges lies in the lack of proper accountability, the lecturers' union NATFHE says in its response to the post-16 review. Lecturers should have a bigger say in college affairs to enable them to speak up for their students and institutions.
Top of NATFHE's agenda is a review of staffing issues in FE, including pay and conditions conducted by an independent chairman. "Clearly in employment matters the current situation is chaos," the 67,000-strong union says. "Despite the best efforts of the staff, the quality of education and training which students may reasonably expect is being critically undermined."
NATFHE general secretary Paul Mackney describes the Government's decision to carry out a comprehensive overhaul of the system as a breath of fresh air.
"The present state of affairs - it's hardly a system these days - is a sorry mess. Many of our members will regret that our warnings in the past went unheeded for so long. We take absolutely no comfort in saying 'We told you so'.
"A handful of colleges and their senior officers have been allowed to turn to fraud and corruption, wasteful competition as providers indulged in market mania, students turned into units, and rock bottom staff morale. Students have suffered and lecturers have borne the brunt - we've lost the jobs and skills of 20,000 lecturers and communities feel cut off from having their say."
Mr Mackney says the Government's plans must build on the bedrock of colleges to create a new framework with local community lifelong learning panels and development plans.
"A speedy move to legislation to embed a statutory entitlement to learning and individual right to paid educational leave is essential. Any new framework must provide mechanisms at every level for the views of staff and their representatives to be heard".