With friends like these..

7th March 2008 at 00:00

To Essex, where attacks on embattled principal Colin Hindmarch appear to be receding as the Quality Improvement Agency holds Harlow College's hand after its controversial restructure.

But Bill Rammell, local MP and FE minister, may have inadvertently fanned the flames with a letter to campaigners who have been protesting against what they see as Mr Hindmarch's hard line on pushing the changes through.

Addressed "Dear friend" (the warm tone perhaps not unrelated to Mr Rammell's wafer-thin majority in the constituency), the letter highlights the expense of the restructure - pound;819,357. "These very high costs reinforce the view that the change strategy the principal initiated was not adequately thought through or effectively implemented," he writes.

Granted that's a lot of cash - even when its ultimate source is the eternal spring that is the taxpayer's pocket - but Ferret can reassure readers it hasn't been squandered on those BMW-driving consultants who always seem to circle when the "restructuring" axe is about to fall. The cash is for redundancies, according to Mr Hindmarch.

The consultancy world will be pleased to know that the clipboard-wielders have not been left out entirely. Tribal Education has been contracted to work closely with the college's management team on leadership, quality improvement, self-assessment, the use of data, equality and diversity, and child protection. So plenty of work at Harlow, then. so long as you're not a lecturer.

The governing body now has two additions, both acquaintances of Mr Rammell: Steve Hammond, former chief executive of United Glass; and Bill Pigram, from the union Unite.

With the prospect of a closely fought election in Harlow and Mr Rammell's take-no-prisoners attitude to quality improvement, I predict a spectacular turnaround for the college.

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