Bilston blow-out

February 26, 1999

The position of MP Dennis Turner as chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for further education may soon be untenable.

Mr Turner, the well-liked and influential Labour backbench MP for Wolverhampton South East, is also the vice-chair of governors at Bilston Community College, which is bracing itself for a damning inspection report.

The report, due next week, is expected to highlight a breakdown of management, quality control and governance at the fast-growing college, which had apparently lost control of much of its franchised provision. The Further Education Funding Council has begun an inquiry into Bilston's future.

The management at Bilston has already been shuffled, but that may not satisfy ministers under their new tough position on failing colleges. It is widely expected that Bilston's governors will be asked to go. As education minister Baroness Blackstone said this month: "A governing body does have the ultimate responsibility for what happens in its college." And just two weeks ago George Mudie, lifelong learning minister, described a much less harsh report at another college as "shocking".

The inquiry team is expected to look hard at the position of Mr Turner, who was once parliamentary private secretary to Claire Short, now secretary of state for international development. Key among Mr Turner's influential colleagues on the all-party FE group are FEFC chairman Lord Davies and Mr Mudie.

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