Why on earth should I work here?

7th April 2000 at 01:00
Sometimes it's good to pause and remind ourselves of what most people have forgotten. Why did a terminally diseased Tory administration decide to float off FE colleges from the local education authority mainland to educationally offshore, self-managing, (lean, mean) but underfunded corporations? A dying political administration's deathbed commitment to life long learning? A sentimental, Majoresque, gnome-fetish driven instinct to issue an overdue invitation to education's Cinderella to come to the funding ball?

In your dreams. The squalid truth is that as Environment Minister, the charismatic Michael Heseltine was given the bitter task of sorting out Margaret Thatcher's poll tax fiasco. How could he erase the memory of Trafalgar Square riots? How could he balance the increasingly deranged Leaderene's idealogically wonky books and pay off her mounting political overdraft? How could he re-package a suicidal farce as a dramaticallytriumphal first night?

Easy-peasy. By a characteristically brilliant sleight of hand - hardly spotted at the time - he transferred, almost in an aside, the bulk of the cost of post-16, non-school based education from local to central government.

We now live with the consequences of that despicable synergy between a political survival strategy, electoral cynicism and fiscal deviousness.

What i that poisonous legacy? Strip out all the rhetoric and the answer is plain.

The spin doctors - and it doesn't matter whether they were Labour or Tory - were never that interested in further education at all. There were never any serious prizes in any of that stuff. The real electoral prizes have always been in driving up school standards. S-C-H-O-O-L - got it? Get schools right and maybe you don't need FE at all. If schools succeed, you don't need FE casualty wards.

I know I am exaggerating, but sometimes exaggeration is the only way you get people to listen.

How on earth can we persuade able, creative people to commit themselves to further education if they look at the schools sector and see the Green Paper proposals: golden hellos, fast-tracking, teachers on the new threshold pay levels, leadership groups, highly paid heads with the incentive to turn ailing schools round?

In the end, the question is as simple and as complex as this. My name is Bill Gates (aka Richard Branson). I don't necessarily work for money alone.

I certainly wouldn't become a teacher or lecturer to get rich. But I am turned on by job satisfaction. So persuade me. What will you do to turn me on? Why on earth should I work in FE? Email me soonest.

Peter Smith is General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers

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