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Bilston scandal facts stay buried

How does the freedom of information Act work?

Some insight can be gained by looking at the way ministers have been able to bury the facts around one of FE'S great mysteries - the events leading to the closure of Bilston community college, in the Midlands, with millions of pounds of debt and questions hanging over the running of its finances.

Many readers will remember the college's inglorious demise - and they would no doubt be keen to see what ministers made of it all.

The Friends of Bilston community college, using the Act, asked the Department for Education and Skills to reveal all documents related to the college's appeal against closure in 1998.

No prizes for guessing that the DfES has refused the request - but what reason did it give? Apparently, it can't get its hands on the contents of its own paperwork. A minion at Sanctuary Buildings explained to the friends that the request has been rejected, partly because the information is stored in 26 files and so is too hard to retrieve.

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