Don't overpay principals, government warns colleges

Current principals should not be a shoo-in to lead merged colleges, the leaked document also advises

Julia Belgutay

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Colleges should be careful not to pay their leaders excessive salaries or spend too much money on severance packages for those who leave after the area reviews, according to leaked government guidance for governors.

The draft version of the document Implementation Guidance for post-16 Area Review, seen by TES, explains that the area reviews are likely to result in "fewer, larger institutions, with principals taking on greater responsibilities", as well as some principals "leaving their role under a severance agreement with financial package".

"Governors should be aware that high-value packages, whether for new or departing staff, are likely to attract public interest and questioning of whether the decision is in line with the charitable objects of the college, particularly where (in the case of severance agreements) the package exceeds contractual requirements or is being paid to a principal with a record of poor performance," the report states. "Colleges are reminded that they are expected to publish information on their top three salaries."

The document also stresses that the principal of a newly merged college should not automatically have been the leader of one of its predecessor colleges.

It states that while a principal of one of the existing institutions may be a strong candidate, “particularly where there is a clear takeover of a smaller college by a larger, more strongly performing institution", they should not be a shoo-in. “Experience from the sector shows that there can be clear advantages to an open competition in which external candidates are also considered,” the document adds.

Appointments 'must be open and transparent'

A spokesman for the University and College Union said it was absolutely vital that any process was “open and transparent”. “All prospective candidates should have the option to apply and any potential reduction in posts needs to be managed properly with the unions. At a time when staff pay in the sector continues to be held down, colleges inflating salaries for those at the top would look tactless and out of touch.”

In March, TES reported that figures from the Skills Funding Agency showed that in 2014-15, seven principals earned more than £200,000. The best-paid FE leader was Sunaina Mann, principal and chief executive of the North East Surrey College of Technology (Nescot) Group, whose salary in 2014-15 was £363,000, according to the college – more than double the £150,000 that she received the previous year. She has since left the college.

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