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College faces up to huge overhaul;FE Focus

Management of the highly criticised Matthew Boulton college has to improve on all fronts, reports Ngaio Crequer.

MATTHEW BOULTON college has already begun its fight back after its damning inspection report, published this week, but it is going to be a very long haul.

Matthew Boulton, in central Birmingham, has clearly spiralled out of control, with no effective management, and little accurate information to guide it.

The inspectors could not substantiate any of the grades the college had awarded itself in its self-assessment.

The only strength the inspectors could find in the governing body was the relevant business background of the governors.

Financial management information was seriously inaccurate and internal controls failed, such that "the governors of the college have not been able to discharge their responsibilities to ensure the solvency of the college."

For the past two years the corporation had approved the college's budget after the start of the financial year. Significant operating deficits had been incurred in every year from 1994-95.

Inspectors said the college had been ineffective over a prolonged period in making the required returns to the Further Education Funding Council, to demonstrate its proper use of public funds. The most recent externally audited financial statements received by the council in May 1998 were for 1995-96.

Funding targets had not been met in either of the past two years, with a shortfall since 1996 of over 20 per cent.

Judgments made about the quality of teaching and learning were less harsh, although grades awarded to lessons were well below the national average for 1997-98.

Science, engineering, business studies and art, design and printing were satisfactory. But history, psychology, sociology, and provision for students with learning difficulties,were not.

In science, including dental technology, there were high retention and achievement rates on many vocational courses. But at GCSE, the percentage of those achieving grade C or above, was poor. "In most subjects, pass rates below 20 per cent have been recorded in at least one of the past three years."

In engineering there was some good practical teaching, but some teachers were not sure how many students should be in their class.

History, psychology and sociology have lost students. The numbers taking A-level in the three subjects have more than halved over the past three years.

Overall, the college, which recruits a large number of students from disadvantaged areas, is in the bottom 10 per cent in the sector in its pass rate. It is in the bottom third of colleges for students staying on to complete their course.

The funding council will now liase closely with the college, and will monitor its attempt to recover.


Inspectors have told the college to address the following:

* ineffective conduct of corporation business;

* inaccurate and inadequate financial information for governors;

* failure to achieve funding unit targets for three years;

* inadequate strategic plan;

* poor value for money;

* failure to account for public funds;

* ineffective management information systems;

* underdeveloped systems for setting and monitoring management targets;

* low pass rates;

* inaccurate information on students' achievements;

* poor levels of attendance, punctuality and retention, and unused accommodation.

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