Another chief quits after inspection

Joe Clancy reports on fears that college managers are becoming OFSTED scapegoats as South Devon principal becomes latest to resign after bad inspection.

A principal has become the latest college manager to resign following a critical inspection by the Office for Standards in Education.

Ian Bentley resigned as head of South Devon College after an inspection highlighted serious problems in the way his college was run.

The college's deputy principal Ray Byfield said: "Following the inspection, Dr Bentley was off with ill health. He later resigned for personal reasons.

Mr Bentley becomes the fifth college principal to go in the wake of an inspectors' report since OFSTED took over inspections in April last year.

Peter Pendle, general secretary of the Association for College Management, said it has now become common practice for the principal to become the "scapegoat" for a bad OFSTED inspection.

He said: "Where colleges get disappointing inspection reports, there does seem to be some pressure from the Learning and Skills Council to seek the removal of the principal."

In the past 14 months, principals at Stockport, Redbridge, West Kent, and North Derbyshire Tertiary colleges have announced their departure after a visit from the inspectors.

Mr Pendle added: "If a college gets a bad inspection you can expect to see a job advert fairly quickly. This is very worrying.

"It could be argued that the governing body is equally responsible for the outcome. There are people who have given exemplary service who may not have been given the development and training perhaps they needed to do the job.

"Once a principal resigns in these circumstances it generally means the end of their career and a wealth of talent and experience is then lost to further education."

He said the long list of departures suggested a need for better training of principals so that they could carry out their role effectively.

"Colleges are multi-million pound businesses and a lot of principals get to the top without having necessarily been exposed to the skills and training they need to do the job," he continued.

"That is why we are supporting the initiative to set up a leadership and management college (for FE)."

OFSTED is due to publish its report on South Devon College within the next two weeks. College governors have already called in a team of consultants to tackle issues raised by inspectors.

Dr Bentley's departure brings to an abrupt end a career spanning more than 30 years at South Devon College, where he has worked in a variety of roles.

Mr Byfield said: "A team of consultants led by Peter Moseley has been working with the managers of the college and with the governors. They have been looking at the issues that have been raised."

He said the college was about to appoint an acting principal. He also said he could release no more information before the publication of the OFSTED report.

Avril Willis, LSC's director of quality and standards, said: "The LSC's role is to protect the interests of learners by ensuring that prompt and robust action is taken to address the issues identified in inspection reports.

"The local learning and skills councils are working closely with the colleges' management and governors to help them address the weaknesses identified and prepare an action plan. This may involve changes in the management of colleges, which is a matter for the college governors."

"The governors and management teams will propose how they intend to deliver the agreed action plan and we will provide support and finance to implement it."

PRINCIPAL CASUALTIES

The principals who have departed or are departing following a critical OFSTED inspection report are:

Tony McGrath, Redbridge College

Richard Evans, Stockport College

Sandra Whyte, North Derbyshire Tertiary College

Graham Hollands, West Kent College

Ian Bentley, South Devon College

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