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ARB blocks new education deal

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Attempts by the RIBA and the ARB to reach an agreement over schools validation have been scuppered as the education crisis rumbles on.

At a meeting of the two bodies last week a joint document setting out validation criteria and procedures remained elusive.

The ARB and the RIBA issued identical statements this week denying the existence of a crisis in education and claiming to be working 'cooperatively' towards a single new criteria document. But a source close to the negotiations told the AJ that last week's meeting had failed to produce the agreement expected. Two areas were under discussion - while curricula contents and validation criteria were largely agreed upon, the process by which validation should take place proved to be a sticking point, the source said.

The AJ has also learnt that recently appointed ARB board member Judge Humphrey Lloyd - an enthusiastic proponent of rises in PII levels - was the cause of the impasse.

Jack Pringle, chair of the RIBA's validation committee, who was present at the meeting, said progress on joint criteria was 'not disappointing'.

But he refused to comment on discussions over the validation process. However, ARB chief executive Robin Vaughan, also present, denied the suggestions of a rift. 'There are a lot of different people with different perceptions, ' he said. 'We are discussing a range of issues on the most friendly terms.'

The discussions were part of an ongoing process that began last year, Vaughan said, and it has been 'up hill and down dale since then'. He added he was 'optimistic' that a joint document would be completed by the end of March.

President of the heads of schools body SCHOSA Wendy Potts said she welcomed the attempts to produce a joint set of criteria, but said infighting between the ARB and the RIBA was 'not helpful'.

Last month SCHOSA produced a highly critical response to the RIBA's proposed changes to its validation criteria (AJ 24.1.02). It warned that the gulf between the RIBA and the ARB's criteria would have 'serious implications' for education.

Potts defended her decision to go public with the criticisms. 'It was important to us that our response was listened to, ' she said. 'They must consult with us on the joint criteria.'

And she added: 'It rocks on a bit, doesn't it?'

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