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College suspends second principal in three years

The principal of a Derbyshire college has become the second person to be suspended from the job within three years.

Judith McArthur, who has held the top job at Chesterfield College since 2008, was suspended on 7 July. A college spokesman confirmed to FE Focus that an internal investigation was currently taking place, but insisted that the suspension was a "neutral act without prejudice".

He refused to reveal on what grounds Mrs McArthur had been suspended, but Frank Smith, chairman of the college corporation's board, said: "Mrs McArthur's suspension from college is a management issue and will not affect any part of the excellent student experience that we offer.

"It is not possible to go into further detail on Mrs McArthur's situation as it is a confidential matter.

"In the meantime, the corporation board has full confidence in the acting principal Trevor Clay, who will take care of the day-to-day running and management of the college."

Former business studies and management teacher Mrs McArthur is the second principal to be suspended by the college in recent years.

She took over from Ian Murray in 2008, after her predecessor was suspended. His suspension was believed to relate to concerns about the management of a pound;37 million development project at the college. He left his post later in 2008.

One college employee told the Derbyshire Times that the suspension of Mrs McArthur, who joined the college in 1995, was "totally out of the blue", adding: "It causes a great deal of uncertainty."

Governors were told earlier this year that Chesterfield College was expecting a deficit of pound;274,000 this year, having budgeted for a surplus of pound;307,000.

But the college has more than pound;10 million in cash and governors heard that despite the deficit it was expected to achieve a "good" financial health rating.

It had also met 100 per cent of its contract target of student numbers, which it attributed to successfully contracting out provision.

The college is also preparing itself for inspection, which is expected early next year. One concern was a warning from deputy principal Kevin Hickey that its success rates at the moment might only warrant a "satisfactory" rating, as they had not increased in line with benchmarks.

Mrs McArthur told governors that social and economic factors would be taken into account by Ofsted, however.

Minutes of the governing body also reveal that the college is considering selling its campus in the nearby village of Clowne, although the details remain confidential.

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