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Questions for Bilston managers

I am writing in response to Paul Goddard-Patel's comments about Bilston College ("Twenty questions before you go", FE Focus, February 23).

The reasons for the closure of Bilston and the establishment of a single FE college in Wolverhampton are well documented in the March 1999 Melia report. Closure was supported by Wolverhampton Council, Wolverhampton Chamber of Commerce, Training and Enterprise and by the local community.

The cost of investigating the former Bilston College has been high, both in terms of money and time.

Throughout the process, the Further Education Funding Council's main concern has been to concentrate on the best interests of students and to protect the public purse.

These investigations, the preparation of evidence and police investigations are ongoing and for this reason I cannot comment on them here.

In 1999 Bilston Community College received the worst inspection report in he history of the FE sector. It closed soon after because it was clearly failing its students, community and financial obligations. As a former assistant principal and finance director of the college, Mr Goddard-Patel may realise many would like to know how senior management and governors allowed such a failure to occur. In particular, how could the finance director and governors, as noted by Melia, approve a forecast predicting a 276 per cent growth in income from pound;24.6 million to pound;68m over a three-year period?

I have become used to seeing Mr Goddard-Patel's views aired in public. I wonder if other readers question the frequency with which such highly individual perspectives are published. More would be gained from focusing on those staff, students and governors who have worked so hard to achieve such success in the new college.

David Melville

Chief executive, Further Education Funding Council

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