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Union rejoices as Dame steps down

Farewell, then, Dame Jackie Fisher, Newcastle College's Iron Lady, who is standing down next year after deciding that "the time was right".

Dame Jackie won admirers and enemies as she built up England's largest college through mergers and the acquisition of private training providers, eventually styling herself chief executive of NCG, or Newcastle College Group. At the same time, she maintained a reputation for quality as well as growth, at least until an inspection this year led to an extraordinary stand-off with Ofsted and the loss of the college's outstanding grade.

The University and College Union (UCU), which first clashed with Dame Jackie when she insisted staff accept a change of contract or face the sack, did not conceal its glee, issuing a press release that "welcomed" her departure.

Rumours that a song from The Wizard of Oz blared out from the UCU's headquarters in Carlow Street are unconfirmed, but the union should take care - if Dame Jackie sees how happy they are, she may change her mind.

Ghanaian head takes a tour of the Toon

Staying with the North East, a charming tale arrives from Newcastle Sixth Form College, where a friendship between teachers from very different parts of the world has led to a Ghanaian headmistress's first trip abroad.

Deborah Johnson, the college's head of Earth studies (geography with ideas above its station) struck up a friendship with Margaret Mensah - head of Tweneboa Kodua Secondary School in Kumawu - five years ago and has visited her in Ghana three times. Thanks to a British Council grant, Ms Mensah was able to reciprocate. Her first overseas visit involved seeing the sights of Tyneside, as well as staying in London and going to the Houses of Parliament.

It only leaves one question: why invite the poor woman to Newcastle in October? Ms Mensah has left temperatures of 28 degsC only to freeze by the Tyne. "I am very excited to be here and to finally meet some of the students that Deborah teaches," she said, through chattering teeth.

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