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Not dispensable scapegoats

BOTH THE Further Education Funding Council and the Department for Education and Employment have treated governors as dispensable scapegoats.

A year ago the governing body of Bilston Community College was in detailed discussions with the FEFC on a recovery plan for the college. We had appointed an experienced acting chief executive, whose appointment had been approved by the FEFC. We immediately commenced the 90-day statutory consultation with the unions on large-scale restructuring. As a result more than a hundred college staff were made redundant. The FEFC had refused to delay the inspection so these staff actually left the college during the first week of the scheduled two-week FEFC inspection.

Those who have personal experience of large-scale redundancy coupled with a major restructuring, will not be surprise that the usual high level of enthusiasm, morale and dedication amongst all staff, was now extremely low. This played a major part in the resulting awful inspection report. While not denying that there were serious problems with the management of the college it should be remembered that it was the governors, and not the FEFC, who identified this and took urgent remedial action from June 1998.

Our experience suggests that the FEFC and the DFEE treat unpaid and volunteer governors very shabbily. Their principal concern seems to be to ensure that all the blame for "failure" is pinned on managers and governors.

How many more colleges are going to collapse before there is a genuine and independent inquiry into the underlying common causes?

Mike Burke

Former governor

Bilston Community College

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