Proud North Brum

December 3, 1999

I am writing in response to the article by Phil Baty in The THES of November 26. The procedural question regarding the appointment of senior postholders at North Birmingham College was referred to the Department for Education and Employment for clarification before appointment and the college acted on the DFEE's advice. The DFEE has confirmed to me that the secretary of state had considered a complaint relating to staff appointments made by the college in 1995 and decided in July 1999 not to intervene.

During the academic year 1998-99, the college employed 352 staff including 245 academic staff. The Natfhe survey referred to and the vote of no confidence involved only 30 staff, 8 per cent of staff. The survey was carried out during a volatile period following the announcement that the college would be forced to make redundancies. Natfhe has published a joint statement with college management in which it apologised for any distress caused to individuals as a result of responses that were made to open-ended questions attached to the survey. Natfhe has also circulated a letter that makes it clear the opinions expressed in the survey do not represent those of Natfhe.

When I was appointed principal five years ago the college was insolvent and within six months of not being able to pay wages. The college is now in Further Education Funding Council financial health category "A". The latest benchmark data, for 1997-98, shows it as having an achievement rate of 87 per cent compared with the FE colleges average of 70 per cent. During a time when 80 per cent of colleges have not implemented at least one of the nationally recommended pay awards, the college has not only maintained national pay levels but has exceeded them.

All of these factors demonstrate a healthy institution with performance financially and academically above sector norms. The corporation and I are very proud of the college, its staff and its students and it is due to the hard work of everyone that the college is now performing to a high standard.

Joan Short Principal and chief executive North Birmingham College

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