Let the voice of FE ring

5th October 2007 at 01:00

Strategic thinking has become something of a cliche in recent times a phrase which often seems designed to justify high salaries paid to mediocre management who have little interest in the business on the ground.

Certainly further education has not been short of strategy from mandarins to the likes of Foster and Leitch all designed to define the purpose of colleges and set a direction for the future.

Colleges have for too long ducked and dived in the face of initiative after initiative and many have grown skilled at meeting the needs of students while at the same time ticking the boxes required by the latest reforms. But there must be a better way.

The news that the Association of Colleges is to form a long-term strategy group may sound rather daunting in an age when, while other resources are strained, strategic thinkers in all walks of life seem to multiply like triffids.

But this latest attempt to get "strategic" is different. College principals may seem like strange and distant figures to some lecturers but they understand the value of what colleges do. Theirs is an authentic voice of the value of what further education has to offer especially if they listen to their staff.

The AoC has for too long been regarded by ministers as an organisation prone to whingeing its annual lobbying for funds and its sometimes defensive stance a source of irritation rather than inspiration in government circles.

The new AoC group will distil the various perspectives of principals around the country into an agreed set of ideas about the future. If they succeed, the well-deserved esteem in which colleges are held in their communities will be reflected in the corridors of Whitehall.

For too long, the voice of government has been heard at the heart of FE. The AoC's mission must now be to make sure the voice of FE is heard louder and clearer than ever at the heart of government.

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