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Vexation voiced: reaction to Mr Bell's comments

Joanna Tait, principal of Bishop Auckland college in County Durham, rated "good" in an Ofsted inspection this year, said: "I think it's a national disgrace that we have a report presented in this negative way. One worries about whether there is a political message behind it. In FE, we take people who have failed at school and change people's lives. Proper credit should be given for that. This attack has sickened the whole of the sector."

Paul Harvey, principal of Hertford regional college, which this year passed its re-inspection after failing two years ago, said: "I agree. It's a disgrace that so many learners are being failed. But if Ofsted were to support colleges as well as just measure them, the improvement would be quicker, greater, and provide better value for money."

Bridget Boreham, principal of Bexley college in Kent, which closed its sixth-form academy after inspectors rated it inadequate this year, said:

"It is encouraging to see in these reports that Ofsted has recognised the challenges FE colleges in the South face, particularly those in boroughs with selective education policies."

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