Plenty of smoke but not much fire

22nd September 2006 at 01:00
News of John Brennan's planned departure from the Association of Colleges is premature, he tells me.

The FErret hotline was buzzing after the summer break with callers asking whether we had heard that the chief executive was planning to stand down.

Did we know when he was going and why?

Every autumn, we expect the tedious annual round of "strictly-off-the-record" claims from disgruntled colleges that they are quitting the association - a regular sport in the run-up to the AoC annual conference. This always comes from Rumour Mill, the capital city of Gossip Land. But the Brennan issue came from much higher sources.

Was it to do with his recent run-in with Government? Couldn't he stand the political heat? Was there really an exodus of member colleges? Was there a cash crisis?

Not a bit of it, the man himself told FErret. He had never considered quitting. "This is amazing," he said. "I don't know who's been putting it about, what their motivation is, or why they are saying it. I am amused at the suggestion."

So, rather than return the countless phone calls, FErret is scotching the rumour and pondering over how it might have arisen.

First, Bill Rammell, further and higher education minister, makes no secret of his annoyance with the AoC. Earlier this year, he invited a member of the 157 Group of colleges, rather than the AoC, to his ministerial team for learning and skills. The group is a self-selecting FE "Russell Group" of 25 largest colleges with top inspection grades for leadership and management.

Their name alludes to paragraph 157 of the Foster report, about FE's reputation.

When the AoC protested, Rammell dismissed the association as "unconstructive", pointing the finger at Brennan. Rammell sees the 157 Group was far more user-friendly. That seems a tad unfair. The group hardly represents the whole sector - which the AoC does. And what should Brennan do to avoid annoying ministers? Brown-nose?

Second, there was the suggestion of an exodus and cash-flow problems. But, as we go to press, evidence suggests the AoC coffers are still brimming with 97 per cent of colleges still in membership.

A third and more likely cause of discontent is the association's decision in July to axe the subsidiary company WFD (for workforce development). With other last-minute staff cuts, not everyone in the AoC was a happy bunny. In fact, one insider at the time described the atmosphere in the London office as "poisonous".

So, in the end, maybe it did come from Rumour Mill at the height of a particularly marked silly season.

Email us FErret@tes.co.uk

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now