New leader for adult students

11th May 2007 at 01:00

Lecturers' union chief now takes up the people's fight against cuts in non-vocational adult courses

Lecturers' leader Paul Mackney will once again be campaigning for more funding for colleges as he takes on a new role. He is to become head of further education at the National Institute of Continuing Adult Education.

Mr Mackney, the former general secretary of Natfhe and currently joint general secretary of the University and Colleges Union which replaced it, will make the case against cuts in non-vocational adult courses. One million adult places have been lost in colleges over the past two years.

His predecessor at Niace, Colin Flint, laid the ground with the report 8 in 10, which amassed evidence that such cuts would cause wide damage.

The UCU and Niace have been two of the leading organisations pushing for more resources for post-school education and training.

Mr Mackney said: "There are many big questions to be answered about the role of adult learning in colleges.

"Niace is a critical friend and UCU is a hypercritical friend - not to be confused with a hypocritical friend."

His new post initially will be a three days a week secondment from the UCU but is set to become full-time when he steps down as joint general secretary. Sally Hunt, the recently elected general secretary, takes over the post next year.

Mr Mackney said: "It will be a developmental role. I will present the face of Niace to FE and FE to Niace."

Alan Tuckett, the director of Niace, said: "This is a terrific appointment for us. He is a brilliant operator.

"Remember, when he took over Natfhe, the organisation's reputation was nil.

He transformed it without upsetting people."

The announcement of Mr Mackney's appointment comes days after a U-turn by the Government over plans to slash funding in support of free English courses for immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees with a poor grasp of the language.

Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, announced a stay of execution for courses in London this year with a one-off injection totalling pound;35 million for colleges and the Train to Gain programme in London, which caters for over half of all demand in the UK.

Sustained lobbying by Niace, the UCU and the Association of Colleges, with evidence of the damage the cuts would bring, forced the climb-down by the Government and its agencies.

The voice of opposition reached a crescendo when Sir Digby Jones, the Government's skills envoy and former Confederation of British Industry chief, said the cuts "would have potentially damaging results both to workforce efficiency and to social inclusion".

The UCU and Niace welcome the U-turn but argue this still leaves other key areas - such as Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester - desperately short of cash and they question the way funds will be targeted exclusively as measures to improve employment.

New money for English for speakers of other languages (Esol) includes Pounds 15m for colleges, up to pound;8m for staff and bureaucracy and more than pound;10m for Train to Gain. The Government has said it accepts that colleges need the extra money "for Esol provision which might otherwise have to end".

London's pound;15m for Esol, page 6

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