FErret: Job swap for wife swapper

10th June 2016 at 00:00

Reality TV bites

The first rule of preparing for the arrival of a new boss is: google them. And staff from Central College and New College Nottingham, anticipating the merger of their institutions to form Nottingham College, have uncovered some intriguing facts.

The chief executive designate of what the local press has dubbed the “super-college” – which will have 40,000 learners on its books – is one John van de Laarschot.

Most recently chief executive of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Mr van de Laarschot reportedly walked off with a generous £230,000 pay-off in November. Before that, he gained a reputation as a corporate troubleshooter, holding senior roles at firms such as Coca-Cola, Mars, PepsiCo and Gerber Scientific.

More intriguingly, it has also emerged that Mr van de Laarschot is a star of the small screen. Well, that may be overstating it slightly: he once took part in reality TV show Wife Swap (pictured, below). FErret recommends that you look the episode up on YouTube – you won’t be disappointed.

Mr van de Laarschot’s appearance on the Channel 4 series in 2004, when his wife Tracey swapped lives with single mother-of-four Shaz Christopher, certainly made waves. At the time, he was living with his family in a mansion in Cornwall, which was quite a shock for new “wife” Ms Christopher, a barmaid and youth worker from East London.

According to a reputable source (The Sun), Mr van de Laarschot screamed, “Get out of my house!” after she arranged a barbecue for local underprivileged youths at his grand pad. She later told the Currant Bun: “John was a snob. He didn’t want kids from slummy areas in his house.”

Here’s hoping things turn out more favourably in Mr van de Laarschot’s first foray into the world of FE.

Mind the gap

Much of the talk at the University and College Union’s (UCU) annual congress in Liverpool last week focused on addressing the gender pay gap. An intriguing side issue arose from the UCU’s latest membership figures (104,734 in total, with 29,926 in FE as of 30 April, in case you were wondering).

What about the gender divide at the union? In higher education, its membership is about 52 per cent male. In FE, however, the membership is 58 per cent female.

Of course, the gender divide in staff numbers is the main reason for this, but the figures go to show how different the workforces of the two sectors are.

Also worthy of note are statistics showing the age of UCU members, highlighted in general secretary Sally Hunt’s speech. Among staff over 50, some 60 per cent of those eligible are UCU members, she told delegates. Among the under-30s, however, this drops to just 10 per cent.

Ms Hunt also raised the problem of how active members were in union politics, highlighting “the missing 15 per cent” of people who used to vote for action a decade ago but no longer participated in union ballots. This highlights the challenge the union faces in the coming years if it is to have any hope of maintaining current levels of membership – and its influence in the FE sector.

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