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Bilborough 1957-2000
Portrait of a College

Part VI - Bilborough College 1987 - 2000

Years 1987-1995

In a thumb-nail sketch of Bilborough College published in 1978, Charles Martin had concluded with the remarks

'So Bilborough raises a modest 'Ebenezer' and awaits any future educational changes with confidence if not with eagerness. Most of all we should like a time of peace to reap the advantages of recent upheaval - at least until 'falling rolls' cause fresh ripples'.

In a curious sort of way, it was the issue of falling rolls - and it was estimated in 1987 that there would be 6900 surplus places in secondary schools in Nottingham by 1995 - which caused a delay in the appointment of a successor to Charles Martin even though he had given ten months notice of his intention to retire. The Governors were informed in a special meeting in April, 1987, of

' ... the lea's decision not to make any decisions until after the publication of the County Development Plan in respect of Headships which fall vacant after its publication in June'.

The staff petitioned Messrs Ward, Weaver and Puckey at the Area Education Office in the following terms.

'We, the undersigned Members of Staff, wish to register our dismay that there will be no appointment of a successor to Mr Martin. Mr Martin informed the CEO on 23rd October, 1985, of the developing situation relating to the age-profile of the Senior Management Team, and this was again raised with the CEO during his visit on 30th January, 1986. The matter was again fully discussed at County Hall with Mr S Parry on 10th March, 1986. The Principal submitted his resignation early in October, 1986, to take effect in August, 1987... . We feel that the situation is particularly critical in view of a number of initiatives which are currently underway and/or in the pipe-line:- 1. Introduction of GCSE, finance and cross curriculum planning. 2. Introduction of AS-levels, curriculum/time-tabling implications. 3. The possible re-organisation of the College within a Tertiary system... '

There were 49 signatories, teaching and ancillary staff, but to no avail.

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The County Development Plan, devised, inter alia, to resolve the problem of surplus places in secondary schools and, rather more importantly from the point of view of the College, to rationalise Post-16 Education provision, set forward a number of alternative schemes. In one of these affecting Bilborough

'It is recommended that Bilborough sixth form college, the High Pavement sixth form college and Basford Hall college of further education be closed and a tertiary college established on the existing sites of Bilborough sixth form college and Basford college of further education. This tertiary college will serve the North Western part of the conurbation including Eastwood and Kimberley.' In another 'Conurbation Tertiary College 3 (City, North West) this college will serve the west and north-west of the conurbation and be based on the sites of Basford Hall college and Bilborough sixth form college. The Basford Hall and Bilborough college sites are ideal for expansion, and are well placed on transport routes to serve the north west of the conurbation and to complement the west of the County. Both buildings are modern and the further education college has up-to-date facilities for vocational provision, most noticeably in the area of construction.'

In the event, though some rationalisation of 11-16 comprehensive schools occurred, no tertiary college was created in the City - and Peter Stay agreed to act as Principal for the Autumn term, 1987. When no appointment was made from the candidates assembled at County Hall in December, Peter found himself in charge for a further two terms, with a very full agenda. On the curriculum front were the development of Technical and Vocational Education Initiative, Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education, and the introduction of the General Certificate of Secondary Education, Information Technology and AS-level courses, and Business and Technician Education Council courses were on the horizon. The Education (No 2) Act, 1986, defined new responsibilities for Governing bodies, extending their role and prescribing their composition. From April, 1987, the in-service training of teachers was organised and financed under the LEA Training Grants Scheme (unofficially known as GRIST - grant related in-service training). Peter Stay and his staff, with support from the Inspectorate, had begun to address some of these issues when there came the 1988 Education Reform Act and 'local management of schools' which required local education authorities to delegate to Governing bodies certain responsibilities for financial management, though, of course, the work load fell on the college management team.

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When Gordon Brown, appointed Principal with effect from 1st September, 1988, looked around his senior management team, wondering how to re-structure their responsibilities, (a far cry from 14 years earlier - time-table and curriculum development for one, boys' pastoral care and examination administration for another and girls' pastoral care and careers for the third) he observed two vice-principals and one acting vice-principal with 11 months of experience-in-post between them. Gordon himself tells the story of how he moulded his Senior Management Team into a successful fighting unit in 'An Era of Continuous Change' - an era in which a new language developed with references to facilitators coping with flexible learning, self-supported study, open learning, core skills and entitlement curriculum, an era which many found exciting and challenging but a few depressing and demoralising. The word 'cuts' and its synonyms were often on the lips of County Hall administrators and, from April, 1993, never off the lips of the FEFC. For better or for worse, the 'business ethic' had arrived in education and competition was the name of the game.

Examples of the lines of communication created in the process of marketing the college include the Prospectus, 4th Form Day (Year 10 Day) and the Newsletter. The shape, means of production and essential content of the Prospectus had changed scarcely at all in the eleven year period to 1987, the last year in which 1300 copies of the A5-sized booklet were collated and stapled on the premises. The brochure produced in 1988, consisting of 16 A5 sides, black-on-white, with the now familiar drawing of the college on the front and Nottinghamshire County Council logo on the back, gave the briefest of introductions and descriptions of facilities. The range of course was indicated, supported by a centre-page spread listing subject and level available. Some special features of the college were described, followed by a staff list. By 1992, the brochure had grown to 22 sides of A4 and included, in addition to lengthier descriptions under headings used in its predecessor, examination results, a highly presentable stylised map of the western side of the city and, as appeared in its ancestor of 1976, details of the timetable blocking system. Curiously, in the 'After Bilborough' section, the pie-chart indicated the proportion of students moving into Higher Education (42 %), Employment (25 %), Further Education (18 %), Youth Training (6 %) and gap-year (5 %), the same as in 1988, confirming, perhaps, Bilborough's consistency in achievement. The whole was stapled in a blue-card cover and, together with an application form, slotted in an attractive red-and-black-on-white folder. The prospectus for 1993 and 1994 was professionally produced, and consisted of nine sides of A4, white-on-green headings, green-on-yellow descriptions on glossy paper enclosed in an attractive card folder. Those of 1996 to 1999 reverted to two-thirds A4, and were weighty, colourful, glossy and informative - in all, extremely attractive.

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Ever since the formative days of the college, there had been liaison of one sort or another with 'associated schools'. In the 1970s, staff visited Fernwood, Peveril, William Crane, Glaisdale, ... to teach latin and music classes, the sciences established link courses in which groups of pupils came to do experimental work, Bilborough students visited as part of Community Service, and Children's Theatre took its magic to schools on both sides of the county boundary. In July, 1988, more formal links were set up when 4th Form Day (later to be called Year 10 Day) was established. For one day towards the end of the summer term in each of the years to 1994, the Bilborough premises teemed with 14-15 year-olds eager (generally, though for some the lesser of two evils) not only to sample the different subjects available post-GCSE but also to experience the atmosphere in a college of further education. In some of those years, in excess of 350 pupils from associated schools and schools from further afield visited and most staff were involved, some in giving sample lessons in their subjects, others in organising activities and sporting events.

Newsletter - A letter specially written to communicate the news of the day [Shorter Oxford English Dictionary]. The first Bilborough College Newsletter appeared in December, 1991, a folded A3 sheet, black-on-white (including five small photographs), professionally designed and produced. It was a start, and a very auspicious one. In the early issues, single-paragraph articles were collated under such headings as News, Community Links, Sport, Music, Drama, but there was nothing rigid or incommutable concerning the lay-out - the content dictated the headings. After No 1, there were no more black and white photographs, and increasing use was made of coloured panels. In the first 'leader', the Principal informed the reader of impending Incorporation and in the second, the Chairman wrote about the Governors Role. Naturally, opportunity was taken to broadcast the examination results each year - the soundest way of promoting the college. Sporting news was never allowed to dominate the pages though fair coverage was given to the successes of the netball team and particularly the boys' hockey sides. The latter were twice winners (1990, Lilleshall and 1994, Bedford) and twice runners-up (1991 and 1992) in five successive visits to the final stages of the Midland Bank Sixth Form and Tertiary Colleges Cup for England and Wales. Stephen Wood and the Sully brothers, Mark and Philip, all represented England in this period. In the 1998-99 season, the hockey XI 'did the double' of winning the Midland Bank Cup and the British Colleges Cup. (A match between the sides of the nineties and of the mid-sixties would have provided great entertainment.) Another Bilborough student to make it to the top was Zo Campbell who won the bronze medal in the European Shito-Rye Karate Championships in Paris in Spring, 1996. Following the staff restructuring in June, 1996, there came a change in editor and a change in format of the Newsletter, with No 10, appearing in Spring, 1997, carrying a full front-page colour photograph, with the Bilborough College logo mounted vertically. In a bumper edition - six sides A4 folded - appeared a photograph with the caption 'Leavers Line Up - One for the album - the Class of '98 line up for the big picture' - the nearest to a school photograph for 37 years. All in all, the Newsletter was a very effective organ in advertising the college.

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In the inaugural meeting of the new Governing Body following the enactment of the Education (No 2) Act, 1986, which occurred on 12th December, 1988, D Pitt was elected Chairman and J V Wilson Vice-Chairman. The body exercised its rights under the Act to co-opt five more members, which number included A Hawksworth, the person who was to be elected Chairman of the Bilborough Corporation five years hence. The full governing body, meeting three months later, was addressed by the Education Officer for Further Education who gave a definition of 'Aspects of Learning in Nottinghamshire into the 1990s'. With the advent of Local Management of Schools, it was recognised that three governors' meetings per annum were insufficient and so four working parties were created - Curriculum, Personnel and Students, Finance and General Purposes, Sponsorship - soon after, except for Sponsorship, to be commuted to sub-committees, when a fifth working party, Marketing, was also set up. In Autumn, 1990, Doug Pitt resigned from the Chair for reasons of ill-health and when his replacement, John Wilson, opened the Governors' meeting in November, he was faced with an agenda of 24 items, a far cry from the meetings of years gone by, for some of which there were five or six items of business, including 'DONM'. The new Vice-Chairman was Derek Sharland, a former Bilborough student.

With the introduction of the County's plans for Post-16 Education and for Staff Development more or less coinciding with the installation of a new college management team, it was no surprise to hear that a Dipstick* inspection was to be carried out by the County Advisory and Inspection Service in 1990. It was the first full inspection; the junior school section of the grammar school had attracted the attention of Her Majesty's Inspectorate in March, 1970, but never the whole school or college. (Like the proverbial London buses, so here, no inspection for 20 years, then two in five years.) At a meeting in January, the AIS six-person team first laid out the aims of the inspection and identified the areas of interest, and then went on to outline the intended procedure and the criteria to be used. The inspection itself lasted for three weeks from 22nd January (encompassing the Open Evening of the 25th January) and the Report, No 5/90, was presented to the Governors on 17th September. In summary the Report said, in the terminology of a later era, that with respect to aspects of cross-college provision, there was a balance of strengths and weaknesses and with respect to curriculum areas, there was provision in which the strengths clearly outweighed the weaknesses. [*dipstick - a rod for measuring the depth of liquid; there had been endless problems caused by rain flooding through rotting (30-33 year old) flat roofs]

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Some of the issues raised in the AIS Report were subsequently addressed on Inset days (eponymously known as B-days) - matters such as learning support and General National Vocational Qualification. The number of Inset days per year had been laid down in the 1988 Education Reform Bill, when the school / college year was increased from 193 days (less a Governors' holiday, the last at Bilborough falling on 5th December, 1986, serving as a Christmas shopping day) to 195 days, including five training days. At Bilborough, one of these five was used for preparing for the new academic year and another for the development and preparation of materials for the Induction Course, leaving three days to cover a wide range of issues. These included the Gender Project, Racial Awareness, the Children's Act, Quality, Record of Achievement, Technical and Vocational Education Initiative, A-level Information Service and there was even one on Management of Stress (from which emanated the memorable dictum 'learn to say no').

But no in-service training could have prepared the staff for the statement made by Mr Kenneth Clarke to the House of Commons on 21st March, 1991, concerning the Government's plans for the reorganisation of further education. His introductory remarks were as follows.

We are determined to achieve better standards throughout the education service. The national curriculum is improving teaching and motivating young people in schools as never before. Parental choice is being exercised in more and more schools. A new and clearer system of vocational qualifications is beginning to open up exciting opportunities for school leavers. The proportion going on to higher education has nearly doubled since this Government took office. But we still lag behind our competitors in the participation of our school leavers in further education and training, and their achievement of useful qualifications.

I believe that the further education colleges have a vital role in providing education and training for both school leavers and adults. They have never in the past been given the attention that their importance in education policy would justify. Through links with business they are well placed to provide the knowledge and skills needed in the workplace. The Education Reform Act has given them greater managerial autonomy and they are recruiting more students. But they are still subject to bureaucratic controls from local authorities. They lack the full freedom which we gave the polytechnics and higher education colleges in 1989 to respond to the demands of students and of the labour market. The polytechnics are demonstrating quite spectacularly the gains in increased student numbers and increased efficiency without any loss of academic standards which can be achieved with full independence.

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The Government therefore propose to introduce legislation at the earliest opportunity to form a new sector of post-16 education from April 1993, by taking all further education colleges offering full-time education and all sixth form colleges out of local authority control. They will be funded directly by the Government, through a Council appointed by and responsible to me. The funding regime will consist of a basic annual budget together with an element dependent on the numbers actually enrolled. It will be designed to provide a powerful incentive to recruit additional students and reduce unit costs. The further education colleges will also assume responsibility for some adult continuing education.

Spending by local authorities on further education colleges and sixth form colleges in England currently totals over 2bn of current spending and 100m of capital. That will become central government spending with a corresponding reduction in grant to local authorities.

The colleges will work closely with the Training and Enterprise Councils. The Government attach great importance to the developing partnership between TECs and other local interests in education and training. We have already given TECs specific responsibilities in work-related FE. They and the new independent colleges will have much to gain from close co-operation. The colleges will own their assets and employ their own staff. They will provide for an ever increasing proportion of our young people the preparation they need for their working life in the rest of this decade, and in the twenty first century.

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In the two-year period to Incorporation on 1st April, 1993, a lot of anecdotal evidence surfaced in support of the view that sixth-form colleges had been included in the scheme only as an after-thought but when challenged on this point, Kenneth Clarke replied that he himself always wanted to include the sixth-form colleges, as they addressed the education and training needs of the same age group as further education colleges, though some of his officials were perhaps fearful of the reaction of local authorities. The complete text of his letter appears in Appendix V. The error - if error there be - was not that sixth-form and further education colleges were taken under the same umbrella, the FEFC, but that they were funded in exactly the same way. In brief, sixth-form colleges are engaged in education as opposed to training, and provide substantial amounts of pastoral care and extra-curricular activities which the further education colleges do not. Clearly - at least to those at the chalk-face (white board?) - there were round pegs and square pegs to be accommodated but unfortunately the FEFC possessed a peg-board with only one shape of hole.

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The first Corporation Meeting took place on 19th October, 1992, those present being Mr A H Hawksworth, Mrs R Clarke, Mr J S Clough, Mr J C Green, Mrs L Hort, Mr J S Maltby, Mrs D E Mountford, Mrs D Ottewell, Mr I D Blakeley, Mr M D Stokes, the Principal, Mr H G Brown, Acting Clerk, Mr M J Edwards and from the Area Education Office, Mrs R Lishman. Mr Hawksworth was elected to the first of his four 2-year periods of office as Chairman and Mrs Clarke as Vice-Chairman. It was resolved to accept the Instrument and Articles of Government; the constitution of the Governing body was agreed, the membership of 14 (at that time) to be made up of 6 independent members, 2 staff, 1 parent, 1 TEC and 1 student representative, the Principal and 2 further persons to be co-opted; it was agreed to set up committees for Employment Policy and Finance, Remuneration, Audit and Strategic Planning. Much time and thought was given in ensuing meetings to the development of the Strategic Plan. On 23rd March, 1993, there occurred the final LEA Governors' Meeting (which was immediately followed by a Corporation Meeting) and on 2nd April, the last day of term, the Chairman of the Corporation joined the Staff in the staff-room for a small celebration, being the end of a successful era for the College under the gis of the local education authority. Within the lea, members of the teachers' associations met with officers of the education service in a forum known as the Joint Consultative and Negotiation Panel, and post incorporation, a similar panel was set up within the College, a forum in which unions could meet with management.

Circulars flowed thick and fast from the FEFC laying down the ground rules for financial management, and setting various targets, including those for growth in student numbers. Initially, Bilborough recruited strongly (see Appendix L), and by careful budgeting, substantial reserves were accumulated, only for the FEFC to change the rules, examples of which included the introduction of penalties in relation to student drop-out and the removal of the 'demand-led element' of the recurrent funding - the latter retrospectively had the FEFC had it all its own way. At a later date, the FEFC introduced the concept of 'efficiency gains' in order to rationalise funding cuts.

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Mike Robinson
18th September, 1999

URL: http://bilboroughgrammar.tripod.com/1957-2000/part_vi_87_95.htm