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Action all the way

A plan to turn around the ailing Inverness College has been put into practice

CRITICISMS OF Inverness College management have largely been overtaken by events. That, in essence, is the college's response to critical remarks levelled by HMIE in its report published last week.

The report found that, while teaching and learning were effective, management was not. The inspection was carried out in November and December, with a follow-up in January, around six months after Donald Leitch, from the Scottish Funding Council's FE development directorate, was parachuted in as acting principal to put the ailing college back on its feet.

But HMIE clearly felt he had more to do, judging the college's educational leadership, direction and management to be unsatisfactory. Arrangements for access and inclusion were also said to be unsatisfactory, with four other aspects of the college's operations found to be fair; only one - resources and services to support students - was judged good.

Roger McClure, the chief executive of the funding council, said it would continue to support the college to remedy its weaknesses as soon as possible.

Mr Leitch said he had carried out his own analysis of the college's performance after his arrival and this highlighted many of the concerns in the HMIE report. A recovery plan has been put into practice, which includes a restructuring of senior management. John Spencer, the new principal, takes up his post next Tuesday, and a new board chairman has been appointed along with three new board members.

The action plan required by the inspectors will be largely based on the recovery plan, Mr Leitch said. The college looked to the future with "renewed confidence".

Inverness is one of only two colleges, along with James Watt in Greenock, which has not yet achieved "financial security" in line with the criteria laid down by the funding council. Despite the concern they have caused, the position of the FE sector now contrasts sharply with 1999 when the Scottish Parliament was established: that year, the National Audit Office in London reported that 40 of the then 43 incorporated colleges were forecasting deficits totalling pound;22 million.

Despite HMIE's worries over management at Inverness College, the quality of its teaching has come up to the mark: learning and teaching in the seven subject areas inspected was found to be good, with the results achieved by students in construction rated very good (the micro-renewables programme in the school of construction wasrecognised as being "sector leading."

In two other HMIE reports on FE colleges, North Highland in Thurso received good marks for the seven areas of its operations and a string of very good and good verdicts in subject teaching; while Barony College in Dumfries-shire received similar accolades.

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