Four worst colleges named and blamed

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MINISTERS yesterday named the worst further education colleges in the country and praised the best ones.

The announcement comes after a series of damning inspection reports on colleges. Two years ago, ministers named and shamed the worst schools in an effort to raise standards, but then abandoned the policy.

Baroness Blackstone, the Higher Education minister, announced that 10 colleges would become "beacon" colleges and receive an extra pounds 50,000 each to spread good practice.

But a further four were singled out because of their poor results and poor student attendance records. They are Matthew Boulton College, Birmingham, Ealing Tertiary College, west London, the Isle of Wight College and West Cumbria College, Workington.

The Further Education Funding Council found that all had serious weaknesses but at only one - Matthew Boulton College, was there "some failure to account properly for public funds".

Ministers have already demanded a "fresh start" at Bilston College, Wolverhampton, which plunged pounds 5.7m into the red after setting up a web of franchised courses across the country.

Inspectors also criticised the management of Wirral Metropolitan College in Birkenhead, Merseyside where governors were forced to resign over debts of up to pounds 9m. It now has a new board of governors. A National Audit Office report attacked Halton College in Cheshire after it claimed excess fees of pounds 6.4m from the Government.

Further education colleges, which are at the centre of the Government's efforts to improve "lifelong learning", will receive pounds 725m of investment over the next two years.

Lady Blackstone said: "The Government will not tolerate unacceptable standards or hesitate to intervene where colleges are failing their students and communities."

The 10 beacon colleges are Park Lane College, Leeds, Lewisham College in south-east London, Carmel Sixth Form College, St Helens, Greenhead Sixth Form College, Huddersfield, Havering College, St Charles Catholic Sixth Form College, north Kensington, London, Bishop Burton Agricultural College, East Yorkshire, John Leggott Sixth Form College, Scunthorpe, Knowsley College, Merseyside and Blackpool and Fylde College.

Lady Blackstone said action to improve the Bilston and Wirral colleges was well under way. She said: "The students and communities all these colleges serve must be reassured that their local colleges are providing education of a satisfactory standard."