An obtuse omission;Opinion

1st May 1998 at 01:00
Enterprise and partnership have been much discussed in the past week. The TESSPerth College conference (FE Focus page 31) was exercised by the need for education to seek new partners and pastures, funded by private and charitable giving if necessary.

On the very same day, coincidentally, the Chancellor and the Scottish Secretary announced to much razzamatazz the creation of a Scottish Business Forum bringing together the usual suspects (or partners) representing key economic sectors and a sprinkling of academics.

Among other things, the first meeting of the forum focussed on getting people into work and taking the entrepreneurial message into schools. It is an astonishing lapse, therefore, that there is not a single representative of further education among the 33-strong membership. Two university principals is as good as it gets. This sits uneasily with the Education Minister's declaration that FE colleges are essential vehicles for a number of the Government's key pledges. We assume the omission of an FE representative from the forum is a temporary oversight.

Joyce Johnston, the principal of Fife College, could be forgiven for her observation at the Perth conference that FE may be involved in key decisions, but rarely brought into full-hearted partnerships. Jim Donaldson, chief FE inspector in England, pointed out that collaboration with colleges often has suspect motives - usually short-term financial salvation.

It is good news, however, that the industrial movers and shakers in the forum are being required to build a close relationship with education. Let us hope it is informed. The suggestion by David Murray, chairman of Rangers, that the spirit of enterprise is being killed off in Scottish schools does not inspire confidence.

Mr Murray's criticism is not shared by other nations, by the many schools where enterprise education is alive and well, or indeed by the critics who believe it has gone too far. Hopefully, the plan announced last week for leading entrepreneurs to parachute into schools will benefit them as much as the pupils.

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