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Former principal died by suicide, coroner rules

Garry Phillips, former principal of City College Plymouth and Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College, died in December

The coroner's inquest into the passing of Garry Phillips took place in Plymouth today

Former college principal Garry Phillips died after hanging himself, a coroner has concluded. 

A hearing which took place today at the coroner's court in Plymouth heard that he died on 22 December 2018.

Mr Phillips had joined City College Plymouth last summer, and resigned in November following a no-confidence vote by the University and College Union branch at the college. This, in turn, followed a critical report into leadership at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College, where Mr Phillips had worked before moving to Plymouth last summer.

In a statement based on evidence by Mr Phillips' wife, detective constable Trevor Strike told the court: "Those posts at times caused him some considerable challenges." He added that Phillips had felt "publicly undermined by his peers, which led to his resignation" from City College Plymouth.

Mr Phillips had been a "very private person", he added.

Read more: Tributes paid to former college principal Garry Phillips

Further tributes: Garry Phillips: The FE sector pays tribute

Also: Under-fire college principal resigns

'A wonderful and loving husband and father'

A statement from Mr Phillips' family read after the inquest said: "Garry was a wonderful and loving husband and father and we will forever hold him in our hearts.

"He was an exceptional principal at three colleges who dedicated the majority of his career to FE, helping thousands of students achieve their career aspirations."

Mr Phillips had joined City College Plymouth last summer, and resigned in November. Prior to this, he served as principal at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London from 2014 until he joined Plymouth.

He previously served as principal of New College Telford, and vice-principal for curriculum and quality at Burton and South Derbyshire College.

The former apprentice also worked in several other colleges, during a career in further education spanning more than two decades.

A spokesperson for City College Plymouth said: “We were saddened to hear the outcome of the coroner’s investigation. During his short time at the colleges, it was evident Garry was passionate about education and skills as well as engagement with the business community. Our deepest sympathy is with Garry’s family at this difficult time.”

'Talent and dedication'

Following his death, tributes flooded in from fellow principals and colleagues. Former colleague Dawn Ward, principal of Burton and South Derbyshire College, said she had had "the pleasure of working with Garry when I joined Burton College in November 2008".

“Garry was already an experienced leader at the college who gave me the warmest of welcomes when I joined. His boyish charm and humour made him instantly likeable," she said, adding: “His talent and dedication shone out and we quickly embarked on a cultural programme to transform the college to one that truly put learners at the heart of everything we did (something Garry believed passionately in).

"He was always bright, cheerful, with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, always eager to learn and improve himself and those around him. For the time we worked together and for all that he did for the college‘s learners, I will be eternally grateful."

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