Clarke policy being reversed

THE PRIVATISING of education inspections, Kenneth Clarke's most controversial policy when he was Secretary of State for Education, is being quietly reversed for England's 2 million further-education students.

The 450 further-education and sixth-form colleges will be covered by a national inspectorate, while schools are switching to a system of private inspection teams and Her Majesty's Inspectorate is being given a monitoring role.

One of the first decisions that will face the new Further Education Funding Council - which John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, is now appointing - will be to decide on how to assess the quality of courses in a sector that is expected to expand rapidly as more 16- to 19-year-olds continue in education.

From April 1993, colleges will cease to be run by local education authorities and will receive their funding from the council, to be based in Coventry.

The council is expected to opt for a 'mini HMI' to monitor educational standards in colleges on its behalf. The colleges are understood to want a national monitoring system; Mr Patten and his ministerial colleagues have raised no objections.

Willam Stubbs, chief executive of the funding council, declined to comment on the system that would be adopted. But he said the council would exert powerful pressure on colleges for economic efficiency and educational effectiveness.

The proposed inspectorate will report on whether the council is getting value for an estimated budget of pounds 2.5bn. Inspectors will investigate individual colleges and also subject areas. The inspectorate is expected to be staffed partly by former HMI personnel.

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