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Council destroyed model projects

I MUST take issue with Mark Atkinson of the National Union of Students about the record of Bilston Community College. Viewing the college's achievements in such a negative light has dangerous implications for the future funding of accessible further education and training.

I worked with Bilston over many years when I was executive director of Wolverhampton City Challenge, developing projects to regenerate deprived areas and to tackle social exclusion.

Many of these - for instance, customised pre-recruitment training, basic skills initiatives, open- learning centres, involvement of minority ethnic communities, accessible community-based education - were examples of excellent practice which should be copied today.

Certainly there were also many examples of bad practice at the college as well. But the Further Education Funding Council's sledgehammer pproach seems, in my view, to have destroyed the good with the bad.

To make matters worse, the FEFC appears to be drawing the wrong lessons from this experience, promoting funding regimes and FE practice which are likely to reinforce social exclusion.

It should be encouraging links between agencies and business and residential communities that are now recognised in the reports of the Government's Social Exclusion Unit as being necessary to counter deprivation.

It is such approaches that Bilston was at least experimenting with, often with a great deal of success.

Where does the NUS stand on this? In my days as a student the union stood for widening access to further and higher education. After reading Mark's letter I am not sure if this is still the case.

Chris Khamis

CSR Partnership

49, George Street

Birmingham

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