Anger over threat to legal status of student governors

UNISON have published a press release stating that “last-minute amendment to the Education Bill could remove the legal right to staff and student governors on further education college governing bodies”. Click here for the full text

The press release continues: “The amendment (83A*), which will be debated in the House of Lords today, was placed just two days before the final report stage of the Education Bill in the House of Lords. It would remove the legal, mandatory stipulation that further education governing bodies contained at least two student and two staff governors.”

Jon Richards, UNISON National Secretary Education and Childrens Services said:  “I am shocked at the way the government has tried to slip this amendment under the radar. The motive for doing this seems extremely suspect. It looks like an undemocratic attempt to remove college democracy.  This is not a necessary technical change as the government is trying to claim. They risk giving colleges the chance to remove the eyes and ears of staff and students from governing bodies. We are therefore calling on the government to withdraw the amendments.”

Toni Pearce, NUS Vice President said: “The long-standing tradition of requiring staff and student membership in college governance structures as well as parent membership in schools and sixth form colleges is incredibly important, and to remove it in this way, without any consultation would be extremely worrying. This change runs entirely counter to the governments expressed support for the existence of student and staff governors. The suggestion that this is merely a technical change simply does not hold and it is clear that there is no legal reason why this cannot continue to be a mandatory requirement. The government must urgently clarify whether or not a legal requirement for student and staff governors will be maintained. It is only too clear that a merely voluntary agreement is not good enough as it would allow student and staff representation to be removed on a whim.”

Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary said: “These changes, if voted through, will increase the risk of mismanagement and corruption at colleges and make institutions less answerable to the public. Staff and students play a vital role in ensuring transparency and accountability and in highlighting bad governance when it arises. A voluntary code, as has been shown in numerous other industries, is simply not good enough. With the sector facing huge funding challenges it seems perverse to be pushing these changes through. Colleges benefit massively from the input of the people working at the coalface day in day out and should not just be able to remove dissenting voices.”

FE Week will be seeking comment from both the Government and the Association of Colleges today.