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Training to sharpen skills of governors;Further Education

The FEFC has been charged with creating a package for recruits to governing bodies by Spring 2000, reports Ian Nash

ALL NEW college governors will be trained to spot sleaze, mismanagement and poor planning under an ambitious scheme unveiled this week.

The package, proposed by the Further Education Funding Council, follows a Government decision earlier this year to crack down on failing colleges. The training would be given within six months of becomng a governor.

Baroness Blackstone, further and higher education minister, announced a package of measures to get tough with weak governing bodies in April. But she accepted that the measures could not be effective without adequate training.

The FEFC has been charged with creating an effective training regime by Spring 2000, following the exposure of high-profile college failures including Bilston, Halton and The Wirral.

This week the council awarded a pound;96,000 grant to a consortium of management groups and consultants. They have until mid-February to draft teaching materials, including books and CD-Roms, which will go free to all 10,000 college governors in England.

A further contract is to be awarded by the New Year to develop a training programme to support the materials. This will be followed by plans for a statutory qualification for new principals.

This is being drafted by the Further Education National Training Organisation and will be introduced in 2001. Meanwhile, interim training arrangements are being devised by the Department for Education and Employment.

Jim Donaldson, FEFC chief inspector, told The TES that the initiatives were urgently required.

The FEFC contract has been awarded to a consortium including the council itself, the Association for College Management, the Association of College Registrars and Administrators and consultants KPMG.

Since August, colleges have had to reshape the composition of their boards: business governors have lost their majority and places have been given to staff, students and the local community.

The Association of Colleges criticised the reforms for removing much of the financial and management expertise required for effective governance and pressured ministers to fund a proper induction and training programme.

Governor training will include: financial responsibilities, strategic planning and human resource management. New governors will be taught to deal with the curriculum, audit committee and the search committee (to find new governors). They will also study the role of the clerk of the corporation.

But Nadine Cartner, education officer for the Association for College Management, warned that the initiative could drive governors away unless it was sensitively handled. She said: "We are talking about volunteers. There is a limit to the demands you can make of them."

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