12th February 2016 at 00:00
Lambs to the slaughter

Avoiding the dirty work

It’s rather unseemly, this whole area review business. All the squabbling; the local rivalries; the bloated egos to placate. Wouldn’t it be much easier if, rather than having to force institutions into loveless marriages, the government instead put the willies up colleges to such an extent that it created a scramble to merge voluntarily?

A cynic might suggest that this is exactly what has come to pass. FErret’s man in the know reckons that, at the latest count, there are no fewer than 17 merger talks on the go around the country, seven of these involving sixth-form colleges (providing that they decide against fleeing to the bright lights and gold-plated Bunsen burners of the academies sector). And the bulk of these are not yet embroiled in their own area reviews.

Parts of the country are so impatient to get on with the institutional blood-letting that they’ve tried to start up their own pre-area review area reviews (FErret’s looking at you, Leicester – although council leaders’ efforts have been thwarted in this case). It’s almost like the school bully who, rather than getting his own hands dirty, persuades his victims to punch themselves in the face instead.

The king’s new coat

It’s been a while since FErret has delved into the surreal parallel universe that exists at City of Glasgow College.

You remember, the institution that – in the face of mergers, redundancies and redundancies across the sector – sent principal Paul Little on a £50,000 advanced management programme at Harvard Business School, and forked out £33,000 for a lavish event to open its new £66 million Riverside campus.

Anyway, not one to rest on his laurels, Mr Little – sorry, “Principal Little”, as he apparently prefers to be addressed – had some big news for staff in his latest missive: the college has a new coat of arms (pictured, inset). Yes, the “distinctive heraldic crest” apparently provides “a visual identity for our future-proofed corporate strategy”. Most interesting, Principal Little. So what does it look like?

To the uneducated eye, it may appear to consist of nothing more than a pitchfork and flaming torch either side of a fish with a ring in its gob, but Principal Little assures us that there is deep symbolism behind it. The salmon haurient and signet ring allude to the story of St Mungo, Glasgow’s patron saint; the pitchfork is apparently a trident, associated with Neptune (owing to the college’s links with the sea); the torch denotes “life, truth and regeneration”. Oh, and the orange background signifies “rewarding ambition”.

FErret reckons that Principal Little may be on to something. That’s enough about efficiency – pipe down with that wittering about productivity. What the FE sector really needs is more coats of arms.

Crime against nature

Word has reached FErret’s burrow that one dastardly college has been tampering with the very laws of nature. Sparsholt College in Hampshire proudly boasts that it has managed to engineer its flock of ewes to lamb in January, rather than spring.

Sparsholt explains: “To get our students industry-ready, the college deliberately lambs at the beginning of the year for curriculum purposes to give our students hands-on experience before they work a commercial season.”

While his kind generally has little time for sheep, FErret can’t help but feel for the little lambs, their spindly legs shivering through the long winter nights.

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