THE GOVERNMENT'S new inspection regime for colleges has been dubbed a "dog's breakfast".
Baroness Blatch, Conservative education spokeswoman in the House of Lords, said the proposals, which will see Office for Standards in Education inspectors enter colleges for the first time in a significant way, were a "complete mess".
Her claims came as the Bill which will launch the new inspection framework, continued its passage through the Lords.
The Learning and Skills Bill - which will restructure the entire FE sector - says inspectors from OFSTED and the new Adult Learning Inspectorate will carry out joint inspections of colleges.
OFSTED will inspect services for 16- to 19-year-olds, while post- 19 learning and training will be the responsibility of the learning inspectorate. Controversially, OFSTED will take the lead in all joint inspections. Work based training for anyone over 16 will be inspected solely by the learning inspectorate.
Lady Blatch said: "When I talk to people in the adult education world and in the 16-plus world in the school sector, they say they would like some clarity. That isnot what is provided in this Bill."
Liberal Democrat Baroness Sharp of Guildford tabled an unsuccessful amendment limiting the OFSTED inspection remit to school sixth-forms. She claimed that only one of 250 consulted on the proposals had agreed with joint inspections. The Confederation of British Industry and British Chambers of Commerce were among those concerned at OFSTED's involvement.
She claimed that making the chief inspector of schools the "senior partner" in joint inspections would "put academic education on a pedestal and vocational education at its feet".
But Baroness Blackstone, minister for further and higher education, said that the Bill would ensure that A-level provision in colleges was inspected in the same way as that in schools. It was right that OFSTED, whose work raising standards was "well-known", should inspect colleges, which had 40 per cent of all students studying for A-levels and general national vocational qualifications.
Lady Blackstone added: "No single inspectorate could encompass the range and variety of post-16 provision, both academic and vocational."