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Bilborough 1957-2000
Portrait of a College

Part VI - Bilborough College 1987 - 2000

Years 1995-2000

The FEFC carried out an Inspection in two stages, of the sciences in March, 1995, and of all other areas towards the end of the year. The report, 58/96, was presented to a special meeting of the Corporation on 8th February, 1996, a meeting attended by the Principal-Designate, Martin Slattery. In his words, some 3 months later,

'The Inspection Report had been very positive and favourable to the College, although it had identified a number of weaknesses which required attention. An Action Plan was required by the end of term and discussions on this had already taken place with the Strategic Planning Committee" (Corporation Minutes, 23rd May, 1996).

Report 58/96 ran to 24 pages. Any brief extracts are bound to show partiality. Here are three such extracts!

Seven grades under the heading of 'aspects of cross-college provision' averaged 2.7 and seven grades under the heading 'curriculum areas' averaged 1.9. (In FEFC-speak, of the grades 1-5, grade 2 means 'provision in which the strengths clearly outweigh the weaknesses' and grade 3 means 'provision with a balance of strengths and weaknesses'.)

The second extract comes from page 3, paragraph 8.

A particularly strong feature of the college's provision is the enrichment programme. This includes opportunities for students to participate in 44 different activities including a range of competitive sports and leisure pursuits. Outdoor activities include a major expedition once a year. There are opportunities to take part in drama productions and musical groups, including choir. A course for the basic food hygiene certificate assists students who work part time in catering establishments. The well-organised physical recreation scheme provides all students with the opportunity to take part in activities which are competitive or non-competitive. Systematic coaching is available in a wide range of sports. The young enterprise scheme gives students a chance to experience the business world by running a company for themselves. Students who take one or more GCE A level subjects also take GCE A level general studies. Language courses are also offered in the enrichment programme. The RSA Examinations Board (RSA) certificate in information technology is taken by students across a range of courses. The youth award scheme leading to bronze, silver and platinum awards is currently followed by 27 students. The community service programme involves some 50 students who help in local schools and hospitals.

From the tables at the end of the report:

95 % of (661) enrolments are aged 16-18 years; 90 % of (661) enrolments are engaged in Advanced Studies; teaching staff, 45 f/t and 5 p/t, and support staff, 4 f/t and 7 p/t; income (for 12 months to July, 1995) £2,237,000 of which 93 % was FEFC recurrent funding.

In the view of the retiring Principal,

'... it was clear there was a need for some diversification in the curriculum to maintain growth ... and for restructuring the staff.' (Corporation Minutes, 18th March, 1996).

On St George's Day, eight days before he was due to take up his appointment, Martin Slattery attended at the college and presented, first to the association and union representatives and then to the full staff, his plan for a Management and Staffing Restructure with the following Aims and Objectives.

In line with the FEFC Inspection Report the proposed structure aims to:

  1. Review and rationalise the current structure and to bring it into line with the needs of an incorporated College in preparation for the Year 2000.
  2. Simplify and clarify lines of management responsibility, accountability and communication.
  3. Review and regenerate the career structure for teaching and support staff.
  4. Encourage leadership, initiative, teamwork and accountability.
  5. Prepare and plan for a phased reduction in management and staffing costs in line with:-

    the projected College Budget
    the potential restrictions on FEFC Funding through convergence and the pressures on the Average Level of Funding
    potential variances in College recruitment
    the proposed reduction in the Staffing Budget ratio to overall expenditure of 65/68 %
    the proposed redeployment of College funding to Learning Resources and the Accommodation Development

By the end of the second week of July, the new structure was in place. There had been a reduction within the Principalship to one Vice-Principal and the creation of a new post of College Bursar to oversee and manage the College Budget and Finances, the College Premises / Estate and the maintenance and development of Accommodation, the College MIS and the Support Staff Structure. There had been a restructuring of the roles of Senior Management Team with Directors responsible for the four areas Market and External Liaison, Staff and Curriculum Development, College Management Information System, and Student Support Services. There had been a rationalisation of the teaching departments into 6 Divisions, each with a Head of Division and Senior Tutor and finally, there was created a dozen or so Cross-College Co-ordinator posts. Subject areas were managed by Curriculum Leaders. Two years on, the structure was further refined with the merging of pairs of Divisions to produce Arts and Literature; Business, Humanities and Languages; Mathematics, Sciences and Computing; and there was a reduction of one in the number of Director posts. The College Bursar, appointed at the end of July, 1996, soon moved on to pastures new and in summer, 1999, with a minor restructuring of roles within the Principalship, a second Vice-Principal was appointed. Over the six-year period 1993-1999, there was a reduction in the ratio 'staffing costs / college income' from about 90 % to less than 70 %, part of the price to be paid in order to retain a fair measure of independence. There were, however, no redundancies, though some staff negotiated 'leaving packages'.

From the inception of the FEFC it was widely recognised that the survival of the College as an independent establishment was dependent on the equilibrium established between income and expenditure, putting one in mind of Mr Micawber's philosophy - Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. At monthly intervals through the year, the numbers of applications to date was posted on the staffroom board. Following the induction course in June / July, staff showed a keen interest in the totals of students in attendance. Then came the anxious wait to September - to find out how many 'units' would appear during the opening days of the new term. Sufficient units equated to 'happiness', which being translated into the terms of a harsh business world meant 'independence'. The 1993 directory of colleges published by the FEFC showed there to be 116 sixth-form colleges, including 21 voluntary aided and 10 voluntary controlled, since which time there has been a gradual decline in the overall number brought about by take-overs and mergers. In a special meeting of the Corporation held on 24th April, 1995, Governors discussed and debated a proposal made by the Principal of Broxtowe College for merger of Bilborough and Broxtowe Colleges. The proposal was turned down and the Chairman attended a staff briefing meeting the following morning to announce this decision to the staff and to confirm that the Governors wished to retain Bilborough's distinctive character and were therefore against merger though prepared to 'work co-operatively' with other colleges. 'Fiercely Independent' was to be the college motto. In the Corporation meeting of 9th February, 1998, the Principal up-dated the governors in respect of merger proposals between Basford Hall and Clarendon Colleges and developments between Broxtowe, SE Derbyshire and People's Colleges. The government, it was reported, was encouraging rationalisation and mergers by supporting feasibility studies. The Governors agreed to approach the FEFC to indicate that a study should be carried out at Bilborough (and that funding would be required). In another special meeting in June, representatives of New College, Nottingham, made a presentation on collaborative partnerships to Bilborough and KPMG representatives, the Principal of Basford Hall College and the Chairman of High Pavement Sixth-form College Corporation. In the event, on 1st April, 1999, High Pavement became a tentacle of New College, itself the product of a Clarendon and Basford Hall merger, whilst Bilborough opted for a 'strategic partnership' with Broxtowe College (with effect from 1st September, 1999), Bilborough Corporation wishing to 'keep its options open, and to preserve the Bilborough College ethos, culture and self-determination'. (The third of the three Nottingham sixth-form colleges created in 1973, Forest Fields SFC, was absorbed into Peoples FEC at the end of the eighties.)

With regard to curriculum developments, 30 students started on TRAC in September, 1994, falling to 16 by the end of the first term. The trial was continued for only one more year. About the same time, accreditation was successfully sought for BTech courses in Business Studies which, following an SMT decision to concentrate on A-levels, were not therefore introduced. For the same reason, GNVQs never made an appearance in the Bilborough curriculum. Consideration was given to the provision of Adult Education, to be introduced in September, 1997, but the programme was not proceeded with. Evening classes in Accounts, IT and Modern Languages were staffed for a couple of years by Bilborough staff. A wide range of 'short' courses (ranging from 10 weeks to 40 weeks) was available from September, 1999, organised in association with Broxtowe College. On Monday evenings, you could have studied Home Interior Design, or on Thursday evenings obtained a European Computer Driving Licence and on Saturday mornings learned the ins and outs of the Internet/WorldWideWeb - to mention just three. A-level Modular Physics was introduced in September, 1994, to be followed by Chemistry and Biology in 1995. The DoEE consented to a change in name from Bilborough Sixth-form College to Bilborough College with effect from June, 1997. Janice Ware (née Matkin) carried the burden of inviting to a 40th-year Reunion as many as possible of the pupils who entered Bilborough Grammar School between 1957 and 1972, with the extremely gratifying result that 461 of them, together with many staff, enjoyed, on Saturday, 3rd May, 1997, a splendid buffet and a suitably nostalgic wallow in 'the good old days'. Allied to this, who was the first boy or girl to follow in mum's or dad's footsteps as a Bilborough pupil? The offspring of two of the contributors to this history fall into this category, but who was the first? Further, a simple calculation suggests that the time is not far hence when the first grandchild of a former Bilborough pupil may attend the college. Not quite fulfilling the precise criterion, a student who left the college in summer, 1999, is the son of a Bilborough student of the late '60s, and the grandson of the gentleman who was the Chairman of Bilborough Grammar School Governors in 9 of the years between 1957 and 1969.

End-of-term 'fun' concerts have long been a feature of Bilborough student life, creating a platform for some very talented performers. Indeed, in one age, the quality of the performances was so high that the MC appeared attired in black tie and evening dress in order to complement (and compliment) the excellence of the artistes. Over the years, there have been many 'pop groups', a few of which played at gigs at venues in and around the city. Soloists and duetists rubbed shoulders with stand-up comics and, on one occasion, a conjuror, a member of the Magic Circle. The show was usually brought to a close by a 'staff act' which rarely failed to bring the house down. A nominal charge was made for entry and the money raised was donated to the charity nominated at the beginning of the year by the College Council. Karaoke concerts and auctions of gifts (including property deposited in the office and deemed lost!) also contributed to fund-raising. A sponsored walk raised sufficient funds to defray the expenses of an Old Persons' Christmas (1987) Party held in the college hall and attended by 80 elderly residents of the Bilborough area. Six months later, a student concert, MC-ed by the inimitable 'don't work with animals and children' Jim Leatherland (JL), raised £300 for the chosen charity, and at the end of the year there was a splendid response by the students to the Armenia Disaster Appeal for clothing. A Comic Relief concert raised over £600 in March, 1989, and £415 was collected for the Children in Need Appeal in the following November. In July, 1991, 65 Bilborough students and 25 staff hosted an outing to the American Adventure for 120 children from five local primary schools, and at Easter, 1992, 18 students and staff, sponsored on the Lyke Wake walk, raised £330 for the QMC.

One walk led to another, and another ... At a Governors' meeting six months after Incorporation, the Principal laid on the table a letter which sought permission from the Governors for JL and assistants to organise a party of staff and students to undertake the Coast-to-Coast walk at the end of the academic year. The response was positive - 'the Governors resolved to welcome the fund-raising initiative in principle'. In due course, the Governors granted permission and in their meeting of April, 1994, heard that plans were in place for 31 students, 8 staff and 13 support members to leave Nottingham on 16th July. For that party of 52, the walk from St Bees Head on the Irish Sea to Robin Hood's Bay on the North Sea, a distance of 193 miles and completed in the 10 days to 26th July, was an unforgettable experience, and an immense achievement. JL was able to report in person to the Governors in October that £6061 had been raised, of which £6000 had been donated to Wish Upon a Star. This feat was followed, if not quite imitated, in July, 1995, by a party completing Offa's Dyke walk, and each summer thereafter, similar character-forming and challenging expeditions were undertaken in the splendid county of Yorkshire.

The spirit of Bilborough lives on.


Mike Robinson
18th September, 1999

URL: http://bilboroughgrammar.tripod.com/1957-2000/part_vi_95_00.htm