Phone a friend for FE advice

21st May 2004 at 01:00
Faced with a tricky set of options, governors can now phone a friend at the Association of Colleges.

Set up with support from the DfES in 2003, the freephone helpline is used primarily by chairs of governors and clerks, says Ivor Jones, the association's director of employment policy. But he hopes other governors will use the service to encourage more informed debate.

The helpline is regularly used, although calls tend to follow the cycle of board meetings, varying between two and 30 per day.

Many enquiries concern interpretation of the articles and instruments of governance, or other governance and management issues, such as disciplinary procedures.

Other topics cover a wide range, says Mr Jones, such as current government reports or issues raised in the TES. Enquiries also continue to be dealt with by e-mail and letters. Advice is totally confidential and, if decisions are contested, is underwritten by the AoC as part of the membership subscription.

As well as dealing with queries, the association produces model documents and guidance on topics such as employment contracts and disciplinary procedures. It recently ran a conference for clerks and plans to work with partner organisations to look at barriers to governor recruitment among underrepresented groups, such as ethnic minorities.

Governors are considering the Government's consultation on whether colleges' articles and instruments of governance will need to change, given the LSC's role in planning area provision.

"Feedback so far has been mixed," says Ivor Jones. "Some want to leave well alone, but some would welcome changes." The AoC will collect further reactions from members before formulating a response for the deadline later this month.

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