'Lame duck' college is on the mend

4th June 1999 at 01:00
A "QUALITY CULTURE" has not yet developed within Clydebank College due to a lack of leadership and poor industrial relations, HMI has concluded.

In a robust response, Hugh Walker, the principal, accepted the criticisms and said there were "no surprises" since the findings were consistent with the college's own self-evaluation.

Mr Walker pointed out that the inspection started last December at the end of a period of radical change and barely two weeks after a new senior management team was in post ready to start work on the issues HMI had identified.

He said: "We have come through two extremely difficult years and there is now a great opportunity, with the help of the additional Scottish Office funding for further education, to transform ourselves from a lame duck into a strong, vibrant institution."

The inspection focused on 10 areas which represent 70 per cent of the college's work. Critical comments on management, like those on the similarly troubled Reid Kerr College in Paisley, contrasted with those on the teaching which was said to be good or very good in 86 per cent of the lessons seen.

The inspectors acknowledge that Mr Walker inherited serious problems at the time of his appointment in April 1997. Clydebank had run up serious financial losses and had to be rescued by a pound;1 million Scottish Office recovery plan. The cost was a loss of 30 full-time lecturing jobs.

But the report makes little allowance for the way financial problems distracted the management. "A quality culture had not developed within the college," it states. "Systems and committees did not operate satisfactorily. There was no college-wide commitment to address difficult issues on a corporate basis and undertake rigorous self-evaluation to achieve quality improvement.

"Poor industrial relations had limited the effectiveness of academic staff and their managers at all levels. Clearer direction from the board of management followed by decisive action from the largely new senior management team, improved staff teamwork and better two-way communication at all levels were urgently needed."

Mr Walker notes the comments about poor industrial relations but adds: "It cuts both ways and there has to be mutual respect and respect for the interests of the institution rather than partiality and polarisation."

The report accepts that "the senior management team was beginning to operate effectively" but said policies were not always followed up by effective procedures and communication with staff was often inadequate.

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