Principal's wife quits clerk's post

3rd October 1997 at 01:00
Personnel chief Nina Ashurst has resigned as clerk to the governors at the college where her husband is the principal, it emerged this week.

She stepped down from the post at Doncaster College after concerns were voiced over a potential conflict of interest.

Mrs Ashurst and her husband, Terry Ashurst, have always denied any conflict in their positions.

Governors insisted that rigorous checks were in place to prevent any chance of staff abusing their positions, arguing that college inspectors have upheld management standards and pointing to Mrs Ashurst's six-year record as clerk under four chairmen.

Mr Ashurst told The TES his wife had stepped down to allow another clerk to take up the reins in the run-up to the college inspection in two years' time.

A statement from the college said: "Mrs Ashurst had intended to resign earlier but agreed to stay on in order to prepare for the inspection in 1996, the subsequent FEFC audit and to provide support to the new chair of the board following a change in office."

The Association of Colleges is preparing advice for colleges on potential conflicts of interest.

The AOC has already produced a "whistleblowers' charter" for staff concerned about practice within colleges after concerns were expressed about possible conflicts of interest in a number of colleges, including the Doncaster case, and the case of senior lecturer Guido D'Isidoro, who was suspended after challenging the role of the husband-and-wife team in charge of Llandrillo College.

Experts on management stress the desirability of maintaining a distance between governors and principals to ensure proper checks and balances.

Roger Ward, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said there were no guidelines to cover the Doncaster case. Guidelines will be issued after consultation with colleges.

He said: "The doubt that was created by the mere fact of the marriage undoubtedly raised the question of 'What does one do?'."

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