EDUCATION – COLLEGE GOVERNANCE – 21 May 2007

Dr Julian Lewis: Ms Di Roberts is the principal of Brockenhurst College, which is an outstanding college in my constituency. She has contacted me on that particular point to say that there could be severe legal difficulties if someone who had been dismissed not by the governors but by a third party were to mount a legal challenge. Furthermore, governors might themselves be deterred from dismissing someone who ought to be dismissed, because they would erroneously believe that it was probably safer to rely on the LSC to do the dirty work for them.

[David Willetts: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I want to hear whether the Secretary of State agrees with paragraph 7.39 of his Government's own White Paper:

“A college, led by its governing body, is responsible for determining its own mission, managing its own affairs, meeting its statutory responsibilities and improving its own performance.”

We accept that definition of the role of a college. ... That is inconsistent with the Government's own statement about how they see a college. Concern has been expressed by many principals and others involved in further education. The Association of Colleges says:

“The appointment or dismissal of a principal are amongst the most important decisions a governing body has to take. The intervention of a third-party into the relationship between a governing body and a principal would have made it more difficult for governors to take action, particularly as this might create grounds for an individual to argue they have been unfairly dismissed.”

That was the crucial point made by my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis), which has not been dealt with by the Secretary of State.]