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Staff go in pound;12m college crisis;FE Focus

Wirral Metropolitan College is to make more than 170 staff redundant in a bid to reduce its debts of pound;12 million.

The decision is part of a recovery plan announced by the new board, following a damning inspection report published this week by the Further Education Funding Council. The old board resigned in January, rather than face dismissal by the Secretary of State for Education. The college has 741 full-time equivalent staff.

The report grades governance, management, quality assurance and support for students at five, the lowest possible mark.

A picture emerges of a college out of control. There was no effective management; there was a failure to ensure solvency of the college; there was a lack of accurate financial and student data; and a lack of attention in monitoring academic performance. The college had failed in its statutory responsibilities.

The inspectors say the college debt of pound;12m will actually worsen because the predicted income for next year is pound;1m too high as it is based on inaccurate student figures. The revised financial plan is also seen as over-optimistic.

As part of the recovery plan, expenditure on consumables has been drastically reduced and some staff cannot obtain materials. "Budgets have been curtailed without notice and ...students are suffering as a result of shortages." Nearly pound;600,000 had been spent on consultants since 199798.

A new governing body has been appointed to the college and a new principal, Ray Dowd, starts in May. As well as the redundancies, there will be further reductions of pound;2.6m and changes in lecturers' contracts. By August the college has to provide the FEFC with an inspection action plan.

Mr Dowd said: "My primary concern will be significant improvement to the quality of education and training experience for students."

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