Doncaster principal told to stay at home

Governers deny that inquiry into David Gates's performance at the Yorkshire college is disciplinary

A college principal has been asked to stay away from work while governors carry out an inquiry in to his performance.

David Gates should have joined his staff at Doncaster College's new pound;68 million canalside buildings at the beginning of term.

But a statement to staff, which the Yorkshire college has released to FE Focus, said: "Certain issues relating to the principal's performance of his duties were discussed at a meeting of the governors on September 5, which are to be the subject of further consideration.

"While that takes place, the governors consider it to be in the interests of all concerned that the principal should remain away from work. This does not constitute disciplinary action against the principal."

Governors refused to say what concerns had prompted their inquiries.

The LSC expressed concerns about the quality of decision-making by the college's governors last year, before Mr Gates become principal.

Mr Gates did not elaborate on the governors' concerns about his performance but said: "My aim is to continue to lead Doncaster College at this important phase in its development, and to ensure the best support for students at the start of and throughout this new year. I'm confident we can reach that outcome".

The Association for College Management insists there is no question of Mr Gates having under-performed.

A spokeswoman said: "The association is 100 per cent supportive of Mr Gates and is confident of securing his return to his post so that he, and all his colleagues, can focus their energy and attention on Doncaster College's students."

Mr Gates joined the college this January from Keighley College in west Yorkshire, which had suffered financial difficulties and is now seeking a merger partner.

After leaving school at 15, he worked in jobs ranging from shop assistant to bus driver before returning to education, eventually becoming an economics lecturer.

Angus McLardy, regional official for the University and College Union, said Doncaster's staff were demoralised.

"The college now is like a big, prestige car with an underpowered engine, because staff are underpaid and overworked," he said.

Lecturers were offered a pay rise of 1 per cent last year, and the college will not be able to meet the pay rise agreed by the Association of Colleges this year.

At a meeting due to be held today the union is to demand an improved pay package and the reduction of lecturers' workload, which is typically 25.5 teaching hours a week.

Meanwhile, Doncaster College has boasted of receiving the largest ever capital grant of pound;20 million from the Learning and Skills Council for its new waterfront building, called The Hub.

The college hopes to spend a further pound;22m on building several local centres, if it can win the agreement of the local authority. By 2012, it intends to have university status.

Despite the big spending, its phone system failed in the first weeks of opening, leaving students struggling to enrol.

The college also ran up a pound;1m deficit last year after it failed to recruit enough students, prompting intervention from the LSC.

The interest payments on the loans which paid for the new buildings mean it is expected take two or three years to pay off the deficit.

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