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Bolton regroups after bad report

BOLTON College is the latest inspection casualty, with a report cataloguing a list of failures of control, and worsening performance.

The Further Education Funding Council has awarded it the worst grade, 5, for governance and 4 for management. Business studies, hospitality and catering, hairdressing and beauty therapy basic skills, support for students, and quality assurance all get 4s. Providing for students with learning difficulties received a 2.

Governors come in for the strongest criticism. They failed to ensure the solvency of the college - pound;6.8 million in debt - and financial controls were poor for three years. Over a long period governors failed to submit financial data. There are four vacancies on the governing body but no attempt has been made to fill them. Attendance at meetings is poor.

The finance and estates, audit, search, renumeration, personnel and student services and strategic planning, departments strayed from their terms of reference. There is a register of interests but it is incomplete. In governance "there re no key strengths".

The principal is absent on long-term sick leave. Senior management structure was revamped twice in the two months before inspection. There were more than 30 redundancies pending.

Declining and poor retention rates are widespread and pass rates significantly lower than the national average on most courses.

One hospitality and catering teacher sent half the students to a learning centre, unguided and unsupervised. Two students bunked off to the canteen.

In a three-hour hairdressing and beauty therapy practical session, only half the students had a client. And of these clients only one could occupy the student for the full three hours.

In 1997 and 1998 no student who completed the NVQ level 3 in hairdressing passed.

Dr David Collins, from South Cheshire College, has been brought in as acting principal. "We will have a new governing body on June 14," he said. "We are also looking at our financial position. There were no surprises in this report, but...we are going to turn things round."

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