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Principal takes on Halton's problems;Further education

HALTON College has appointed a new principal in the same week that an inspection report has confirmed continuing failings at the college.

Ian Clinton, formerly principal at Joseph Priestley College in Leeds, takes over in January knowing the size of the task facing him after Further Education Funding Council inspectors failed the Widnes-based college in five areas.

It received grade 4s for computing and IT, health and care, quality assurance and management, plus a grade 5 for governance, in the report published this week.

The college has made efforts to focus on local services after the franchising empire of former principal Martin Jenkins collapsed amid allegations of financial irregularities, huge expense accounts and extensive foreign travel. Highly critical reports from the National Audit Office, FEFC and House of Commons Public Accounts Committee added to its much publicised troubles.

But the report suggests there is some way to go in rebuilding its reputation. There has been "poor supervision of the college's core business and inadequate financial oversight", retention and achievement are below average "in many areas" and 13 per cent of lessons - twice the national figure - were deemed unsatisfactory.

"Overall," it concludes, "the college has made little progress in addressing weaknesses highlighted in the previous report."

The tone is lifted by grade 2s in English and modern languages, engineering and catering and hospitality and the report highlights some areas of good practice.

But governance is described as having no strengths, lacking attention to the college's educational character and mission, failing to control senior postholders and neglecting its duties in relation to franchises. Its committees were ineffective and inadequate.

All but three of the 19-strong governing body were replaced the week before the inspection by those appointed by the Secretary of State.

In the 18 months prior to inspection, the college had three acting principals, eight out of 11 senior managers left and 140 teachers lost their jobs.

In a statement, the FEFC said it hoped the new board and principal would "enable the college to draw a line under previous events and move forward in providing quality education for the community."

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