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Taking action in higher education

'LSC report is a wake up call for Harlow College principal', says lecturers' union UCU

7 August 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

A report by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) into whether Harlow College has enough capacity to meet its September teaching needs - after the loss of around 100 teaching staff - is a 'wake-up call' for the college principal, Colin Hindmarch, according to UCU.

The report, on a review into 'the capacity of Harlow College to deliver proper and reasonable provision from September 2007 for learners in the community' was completed on 31 July and was presented to the Harlow College Corporation Board on 1 August 2007. 

The Corporation Board have accepted the contents and recommendations of the report, which include:

  • 'HR planning for staff development (including management and governor development) and team/ethos building in the new structure.'
  • 'Support for the senior management team and curriculum areas from the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA) in order to achieve the quality of customer experience and the excellence in teaching to which the college aspires.'
  • 'The governing body to appoint two additional governors to provide additional expertise and support for the work of the college'.

The LSC intervention followed a collapse of confidence in the college management and the departure of around a hundred teaching staff who declined to accept a new contract which the college was attempting to impose. Lecturers feared unlimited teaching hours and damage to the quality of students' learning experience.

The LSC report states that as the college's planned staffing and capacity is not yet fully in place - 'there is a level of risk to the learner experience'. The LSC is now working with the College to ensure immediate implementation of the recommendations.

Barry Lovejoy, head of further education at UCU, welcomed the LSC report. He said: 'I broadly welcome the report, including its description of the risks which now face the college, and its description of what needs to be done. This is a wake up call to college principal Colin Hindmarch and he must act swiftly to reach a sensible agreement with ourselves on a contract which addresses staff fears about course quality and unlimited teaching hours.

'An enormous proportion of the teaching staff have left, many of whom were very experienced and highly rated. This loss of expertise risks damage to the college's reputation and must put enrolment prospects at risk. I welcome the support which is being offered to the college by the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA), and I welcome the LSC's intention to assist the appointment of two new governors. '

UCU and the college are due to meet under the auspices of ACAS on the 14 August.

On Sunday (August 5) Harlow MP Bill Rammell hosted a meeting of constituents concerned about developments at the college. The meeting was attended by many people from the local 'Save Our College' campaign, which includes members of the local community, students and parents of students.

Staff attending welcomed the support of the QIA to try to protect quality at the college. It was said that teaching staff, however, feel that the contract to which they are currently working will not prevent further departures and therefore cannot stabilise the college. Concern was also expressed that it was not clear who would give guidance to the college principal in forthcoming negotiations.

Another concern raised was the limited college consultation with local stakeholders, identified in the LSC report. The view was expressed that future consultation should be improved and involve stakeholders including the local community, students, parents and trade unions.

Another hope was that governor accountability will be improved. It was said that staff departures could have cost as much as £1million of public funds, but that no clear information had been made available by the college, and it was not clear how governors could be made accountable.

In discussion on the two additional governors which the college is being recommended to appoint, Bill Rammell MP said he hoped that one of the two new governors would be a union representative.