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Stratford-upon-Avon principal pledges brighter future after critical report

The principal of a struggling college subject to a critical report by the FE commissioner said she is “hopeful” the college has turned itself around.

Nicola Mannock, made the comments following a report published last week, in which the colleges' troubleshooter, Dr David Collins, called into the question the future of Stratford-Upon-Avon College.

The commissioner was sent in to the college in May after its financial health was declared to be “inadequate” by the Skills Funding Agency. It recorded deficit budgets in each of the last five years and at one point was £1.5 million in the red.

Dr Collins’ report acknowledged that the new management team, led by Ms Mannock, who was appointed earlier this year, had set about addressing the significant problems that Stratford-upon-Avon faces in a "methodical and professional way".

But he said there was still a “question mark” over the college’s long-term viability as an independent institution.

Ms Mannock told TES, however, that the restructuring had put the college in a more positive position.

The college has cut 40 staff posts to save £1.2 million, and Ms Mannock said it now has an operating surplus budget.

The governing body, which came in for criticism from the commissioner for a lack of expertise in key areas, has also undergone a restructuring. Seven governors have resigned, the clerk has retired, and Ms Mannock said a new board was being appointed and would be up and running by September.

The Association of Colleges is helping the college develop a training programme for governors and Ms Mannock is receiving expert mentoring as advised by the Commissioner.

She said the college has “moved on” from the position outlined in the report and is looking to the future.

“We are very hopeful,” she said. “Our academic success rates and financial position are very strong. We just need to get our numbers in now. We are aiming for a student  intake of 2,000 this September. If we get that I’m confident we will have a strong future.”

Despite the criticism in the commissioner’s report, Ms Mannock said she found Dr Collins supportive.

“He was tough with us but it was a fair assessment, and he was complimentary of our good work,” she said. “I’m quite happy with our dialogue.”


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