College privatisation plans are likely to bring "fragmentation" to the further education system according to a teachers" association.
Martin Freedman, Head of Pay, Conditions and Pensions at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), criticized recent proposals put before government that some colleges should be privatised, arguing that they will merely become "skills factories".
He said: "Any attempt to privatise FE colleges will bring further fragmentation to the education system. Colleges must continue to be a resource for their local communities. We have already seen the consequences for students and lecturers where colleges have removed A-Level and adult education classes from their curriculum".
"If colleges are allowed to act entirely on a market basis, they will turn into skills factories where students would be enrolled purely on the basis of how much funding they could bring with them and lecturers would be paid as non-professional trainers on short-term contracts".
The government however, welcomed the proposals, put forward by Ioan Morgan, Chair of the influential 157 Group, last week.
Speaking to FE News, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, Bill Rammell, said: "Our FE agenda is not about wholesale privatisation and the vast bulk of provision will remain in the public sector. But we are interested, in the right circumstances, at looking at new models which will release more of providers" energy to focus on improvements and meeting the needs of learners and employers".
"Federations, trusts or formal partnerships with private sector organisations can help in some circumstances. There is a clause in the Further Education and Training Bill to facilitate this".
In an interview with FE News last week, Mr Morgan noted the "increasing trend" of colleges entering into partnerships with private companies, including the Carter & Carter Group.
Di McEvoy-Robinson, Managing Director of Apprentice Learning at Carter & Carter, said: "Carter & Carter Group PLC is actively working in partnership with over 100 colleges and schools. We believe such partnerships are a statement of our commitment to the further education sector and to ensuring that we can offer a total training solution for employers".
"We have a memorandum of understanding with Castle College, Nottingham and we are presently in talks with a series of other educational organisations and major employers across the UK".
"Our strategy is to build a network of partnerships across the UK that enable us to deliver first class training solutions that directly benefit learners, local communities and employers".
Lawrence Miles, Chief Officer of the Independent Organisation for Licensed Verifiers and Assessors (IVA), commented on the formation of the 157 Group: "The 157 Group" "“ it has a ring to it "as of bullion", and mystery, rather like those dismal cul-de-sacs one finds in remote villages near Agen with names like "impasse 21 novembre" or "rue 15 janvier"".
"More and more people are becoming aware they"ve named themselves after a paragraph "“ it could have been a subordinate clause but may yet turn out to be a sentence. This was a relief for those who were still trying to figure out just which 157 principals were keen to go private, opt out of their pension and risk all on a share option".
"Have a read of the Foster Review's Paragraph 157. It suggested that successful principals might want to boost and champion FE's reputation. What will this Group be doing for the "157 Poorest Performing Colleges Group"?"
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