HC Deb 12 July 1994 vol 246 c820
10. Mr. Spring

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what new rights and entitlements are being given to students and employers under the charter for further education.

Mr. Boswell

The further education charter sets out, for the first time, the information and services that students, employers and others have a right to expect from the sector. It explains what is being done to ensure high standards and what to do if things go wrong. Colleges are now preparing their own charters to reflect local circumstances.

Mr. Spring

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is vital that local colleges prepare their charters based on local needs and assessments of local conditions? Is my hon. Friend aware that that is precisely what West Suffolk college in my constituency has done, and that that college's approach is reflected in the excellent grades awarded to it by the Further Education Funding Council in its recent inspection?

Mr. Boswell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. The charters are extremely important. They should be firmed up locally to meet local needs, just as colleges' delivery of education should be appropriate to local needs. I join him in paying tribute to the excellent work of the college, which in a recent inspection had grades 1 or 2 for all subject areas but three—a fact which reflects very well both on the college and the quality of the systems that we are putting in place.

Mr. Dafis

Does the Minister acknowledge that competition between colleges of further education and between those colleges and sixth forms can sometimes give rise to bad feeling and duplication of courses and provision? Will he advise such institutions to have a collaborative relationship, to minimise misuse of resources and encourage co-operation of the best kind?

Mr. Boswell

I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's comments. Essentially, I see no reason why collaboration cannot co-exist with a degree of competition in particular areas. In that spirit, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State brought forward proposals earlier this year for a framework for the assessment of new sixth-form provision, to be considered alongside the overall need for post-16 education.