No principal and an Ofsted inspection due

20th February 2004 at 00:00
A troubled college facing debts of pound;2 million is paying for its pound;75,000-a-year principal to stay at home in the run up to an Ofsted inspection.

Salisbury College is preparing for the rigorous inspection in March with its principal, Howard O'Keeffe, on enforced home leave.

Mr O'Keeffe was sacked back in November and then reinstated on condition that he remained at home while a special committee was set up to investigate whether his dismissal was justified.

But O'Keeffe has now been at home for more than a month waiting for the special committee to be set up to hear his case.

The board of governors had to cancel one meeting because of bad weather in January. To compound matters the clerk, Tony Rogers, has also been ill.

Governors' chairman Peter Riggs said: "We want to set up the special committee as soon as possible but our clerk has been unwell."

In the meantime an Ofsted inspection is looming with the man hired to turn round the college nearly a year ago, unable to contribute to the preparations.

Mr O'Keeffe, 54, had been appointed last March and had won praise for successfully reviving Havant sixth form college in Hampshire.

He is now liaising with his solicitor about what his next move should be in this long-running dispute.

Mr O'Keeffe said: "I don't have any contact at all with the college, There's been no correspondence between us. It seems absurd."

Members of staff are apprehensive about the outcome of the pending Ofsted inspection.

One staff member admitted: "The place is rudderless. A lot of people are in the process of handing in their resignations and many are looking to move elsewhere."

The college has also been forced to issue an apology to staff about the insensitive way it recently handled an internal advertisement for a post as a lecturer in management.

A footnote to the notice explained: "As a result of forthcoming restructuringrecovery plans regrettably, the college will need to lose some staff by reasons of redundancy.

"Therefore, if staff consider that their current post could be under threat of redundancy and that any of the above posts could provide suitable redeployment opportunities, they should discuss this as a matter of urgency."

In a follow-up memo, personnel manager Rebekah Mundy apologized for any distress the advertisement might have caused.

She admitted staff had raised concerns about the way the job ad was phrased.

Management and the governors have still to put forward a recovery plan for the college since Mr O'Keeffe was sidelined last year.

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