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Time for debate, not attacks

As the head of a national residential specialist college with a strong reputation for educating and training students with physical disabilities, I am appalled to see recent articles (on failing colleges) in FE Focus. My own college has helped more than 10,000 students in the last half a century to move into employment and independent lifestyles as a result of the education and training they have received within our residential environment.

I find your comments unhelpful at a time when we are trying to improve opportunities for these most needy students with often profound and multiple physical disabilities.

The articles ignore the excellent work that goes on in many parts of our specialist sector, and I would wish that, at this moment in our pedagogic development, we would be having a professional debate, rather than an ill-informed journalistic opinion in the pages of your newspaper, which is supposed to represent the development of education and training in the nation.

While you are headlining the minority of colleges that are failing, let me remind you that my college has just been inspected by a team of eight inspectors and one financial auditor from Ofsted and the Adult Learning Inspectorate . The inspection was extremely rigorous and thorough. It was undertaken at a time when the inspectorates are under financial pressure, but neither the breadth nor the scope of the inspection was affected.

Could I therefore urge you to open up this much-needed professional debate, so that we can share adequate rather than inadequate practice to promote even more success for our very needy students with disabilities and or associated learning difficulties.

MEA Syms Principal and chief executive officer Portland college Nottingham Road Mansfield

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