Pile on the peer pressure

26th August 2005 at 01:00
Paul Mackney and Lynne Sedgmore lend their support to the new group championing the cause of FE

A national pressure group pushing for a better post-16 deal from the Government has undergone radical changes this summer to widen the debate.

What started as the Charlotte group of nine national bodies in the learning and skills sector has been renamed the Concord Group. The word "concord" signifies the purpose - to reach mutual agreement with the Government on improvements in further education and training.

The name Charlotte was originally adopted as the group grew from a TES-sponsored meeting of like minds at the Charlotte Street Hotel in London. However, there was a danger this would be seen as an inward-looking clique. Or worse, an elite, like the Russell group of universities.

In the four months since the launch of its draft agreement with the Government, the Concord Group has been overwhelmed by critical but supportive contributions to the TES Open Forum. It is seen as a group "whose time has come".

Two more organisations have signed up: The Black Leadership Initiative and the National Union of Students - bringing a significant voice of the FE consumer into the debate.

The search for a new consensus with the Government does not, however, signal a let-up in the campaigns and struggles of individual organisations for a better deal. As Paul Mackney, general secretary of Natfhe, the lecturers' union, argues on this page: "With casualisation and insecurity rife in the sector, one might well ask why anyone in their right mind would contemplate a career in FE."

Leaders also face a tough challenge, says Lynne Sedgmore, chief executive of the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (see below). "It is time for our leaders to present a confident and positive voice to funders and policy-makers."

The debate continues through the FE Focus Open Forum pages and at the first TES national symposium on learning and skills, Vision 2010 and Beyond, at the Institute of Directors in London on October 12.

The focus will be on round-table discussions, with keynote speeches from Bill Rammell, minister for further and higher education, Professor Lord Layard, director of the London School of Economics Centre for Economic Performance, and Nick Pearce, director of the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Members of the Concord Group are drawn from the Association for College Management, Association of Colleges, Association of Learning Providers, Black Leadership Initiative, Centre for Excellence in Leadership, Lifelong Learning UK, Natfhe, National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, National Union of Students and The TES.

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