Ministers will tell governors they face the sack if they do not hit new targets for improving the worst performers. The tough regime is the most demanding yet to be imposed on further education colleges. George Mudie, an Education minister, is expected to deliver the Government's uncompromising message to the principals and governors of the 446 English colleges at their annual conference today.
The best colleges can expect financial rewards, but there will be "zero tolerance" of those marked down by inspectors. Mr Mudie is expected to tell the conference that some reports "make shocking reading".
"There are some excellent colleges. But there is too much complacency about standards; and there is some outright failure," he will say.
Colleges, which provide academic and vocational courses for about four million people each year, are in the vanguard of Tony Blair's drive to expand access to education and training. As part of this, ministers are determined to cut drop-out rates, as high as 85 per cent on some courses. Absenteeism is another target, with up to 25 per cent of students missing class in some cases.
But Mr Mudie will praise the very best sixth-form and further education colleges, which produce A-level results on a par with the highest-achieving grammar schools.
Ministers will use a new pounds 115m standards fund to back measures to improve teaching standards and staying-on rates. New regulations giving them the powers to intervene are already in place.
Governors at one of Britain's biggest colleges became the first victims of the clampdown earlier this month when they were forced to resign after receiving unprecedented criticism from the Further Education Funding Council. David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, imposed a new board of governors at the 23,000-student Wirral Metropolitan College after allegations of "mismanagement".
Reports due out at the end of this month are expected to be highly critical of two further colleges, Bilston Community College in Wolverhampton and Matthew Boulton College in Birmingham.
The warning to colleges comes after Mr Blunkett's announcement last year of the biggest expansion yet of sixth- form and further education colleges. But he said the increase must be matched by improved standards. He warned then the Government "will be as tough on failing colleges as we have been on failing schools".
The Worst Results
Ranked by percentage of students who gain a qualification at the end of their course.
Arnold and Carlton College, Nottingham - 26%
College of North West London - 31%
Working Men's College, London - 31%
Royal Forest of Dean College - 32%
Hackney Community College - 33%
Barnet College - 34%
Hammersmith and West London College - 36%
Basildon College - 40%
City of Liverpool College - 40%
Stoke on Trent College - 40%
Thomas Danby College - 40%
Source: Confirmed figures from college performance indicators 1996-97.
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