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Inspectors still find problems at Borders

A government inspection of Borders College, where staff passed a motion of no confidence in management two years ago, has pointed to continuing weaknesses in relationships between the two sides. Her Majesty's Inspectors list a 15-point programme on which it expects action before the inspectors pay a follow-up visit during the next 12 to 18 months.

The HMI report praises the quality of the teaching, which was very good or good in 84 per cent of the 97 lessons seen, and the "vigorous and purposeful" strategic management of the college. The report also says the college has a positive image locally.

But, referring to "difficulties in the recent past," the inspectors state: "The management team had made considerable efforts to respond constructively to these difficulties, especially in the area of staff communication. While a certain amount of progress had been made, there were still indications of disquiet among some staff, a number of whom felt dissociated from and undervalued by their senior managers."

The report calls on management to review its communication arrangements and to give one of its senior members responsibility for communication and staff relations "to ensure that it consistently receives the same attention as aspects such as resources, marketing and financial monitoring, to achieve uniform effectiveness".

The HMI also paid visits to a number of college sections, reporting in detail on five of them, and found that "the effectiveness and style of section management varied significantly".

The report singles out the land-based (agriculture, horse management, etc) and service industries (catering, care, office administration) sections for their "consensus-based approach" which involves staff in policy formulation and portfolio planning. The head of service industries is also appreciated by staff for relaying their concerns to senior management.

But, the inspectors continue, staff elsewhere "were poorly informed about future plans; many said that they had been inadequately consulted, and that they felt insufficiently valued within the institution.

Relationships appear to be better further up the college, according to the HMI. The report praises the "successful working relationship" between the principal and the college board which in turn earns praise for its "prudent management" of college resources.

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