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Questions were not asked in a 'Star Chamber'

We were surprised to read that the Colleges' Employers' Forum seems to be seeking to discredit the Shattock inquiry into Derby College: Wilmorton (TES, December 9).

Can we make it clear that a large majority of staff at Wilmorton, including those in senior positions, agree with the report? As far as his criticising the objectivity of what is written, we would question the capacity of the CEF's adviser, John Hall, to reach such a conclusion as we have been assured that no one from the college has spoken to his firm, Eversheds.

Far from being concerned about the "cloak of anonymity" under which evidence was gathered, many staff felt there was a need for confidentiality, so that those who were vulnerable could provide information. The suggestion that there was "more than a whiff of the Court of the Star Chamber in the air", is one that most people who attended the inquiry would vigorously deny. Proceedings were conducted in a formal and professional manner, and statements that were made were properly questioned and evidence sought. It may be that some of those who spoke to Professor Shattock and his team were faced with questions that they could not answer. In any inquiry evidence has to be scrutinised, but to suggest that this constituted a Star Chamber is a complete distortion of the atmosphere in which the inquiry was conducted.

Like some former college governors, Mr Hall criticises the Further Education Funding Council for an alleged lack of guidance to colleges. The CEF must know that all governors received copies of the instruments and articles of government well before incorporation. Colleges also received copies of other documents and circulars. Included were ones that explained the need for governor training, and many colleges fully addressed this matter. Perhaps the CEF needs reminding that two governors were removed from the board for trying to draw to its attention its statutory and other responsibilities. Many staff also wrote to the governors in a similar vein.

Our concerns at the activities of the CEF are shared by many colleagues who feel that the forum could spend its time better by seeking to get the recommendations of the Shattock report implemented as soon as possible.

OLIVIA DEAN

GORDON STEWART

Assistant principals

Derby College: Wilmorton

London Road, Derby

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