Difficult to do any worse

8th June 2001 at 01:00
I write in response to your article on Basildon College (TES, March 23). This article referred to a report produced by the Special Investigation Unit of the Further Education Funding Council. I strongly dispute the veracity of this report, as it proves nothing, yet deals in what seems to me to be gossip and innuendo in order to arrive at conclusions that are at odds with the very solid mass of evidence supplied to the unit.

It seems to me that Ken Ruddiman had it right when he stated in his letter to FEFocus TES (April 13) that, with respect to the FEFC "accusations of tardiness, deviousness and even bullying have never been far from the surfaceI" and "Ithe supposedly objective inspectorate has created the impression that its main role recently has been to justify the funding council's actions and ratify the pre-conceived perceptions of colleges held by council officers".

The FEFC Inspection of Basildon College in October 1999 bore little resemblance to the college in which I worked as principal. The re-inspection in February 2001, after I had left, indicated that the college had made a dramatic turnaround after doing nothing for the first seven months after the Otober 1999 inspection. It seems that there is a strong self-fulfilling quality to this statement. An independent audit of the college in February 2000 highlighted what significant progress the college had made in just four months since the October 1999 inspection.

I have worked in education for 30 years, and my focus has always been the students. I have expected staff to work hard, but also provided the support staff needed to perform well for their students. I have displayed integrity in all my actions, as is clearly demonstrated in the evidence I provided to the FEFC's special investigation unit. I was fortunate in having the support of a well-informed and effective governing body.

Reading the article, it would seem that Basildon College was a terrible place to work and study. Nothing could be further from the truth. The majority of staff were highly skilled, dedicated to their students, and hard working. I hope that the new Learning and Skills Council will serve education rather better than the FEFC seems to have done. If the case of Basildon College is anything to go by, it would be very difficult to do any worse.

C R Chapman (address supplied)

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