Northumberland College new boss changes mind over job

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Northumberland College new boss changes mind over job

Northumberland College new boss changes mind over job

A TROUBLED North East college has been thrown into fresh turmoil after the woman chosen to be its new boss changed her mind and decided not to take the job.Governors at the Ashington-based Northumberland College announced in February that Laurel Penrose had been appointed as its new principal and chief executive.Ms Penrose – currently vice principal for curriculum and quality at North Warwickshire and Hinckley College – said she was ‘delighted’ with the appointment, which she was due to take up this month.Now it has emerged that she has had a change of heart, and will not be taking up the post.It has also been revealed that Chris Todd – who had been acting principal and chief executive for more than a year after the departure of previous principal Rachel Ellis-Jones – has also left the college following the decision to appoint Ms Penrose.The moves have left the college temporarily ‘rudderless’ according to one insider – at a time when it is trying to move on from a controversial and abortive bid to merge with NCG, the parent company of Newcastle College.The proposed merger, which sparked a protest campaign by college lecturers and local politicians, was dropped last November when the Northumberland governors decided to pull out of the deal.They announced three months ago that Ms Penrose had been appointed as the new principal. It is understood that she has now cited personal and family reasons for her decision not to take up the post.The college yesterday refused to comment on the reasons for her decision. It said Mr Todd left his post ‘amicably’ at the end of March to pursue other career challenges, and spend more time at home with his two young children.Yesterday John McCormack, a former lecturer at the college who was recently elected as the next national president of the University and College Union (UCU), said the latest developments were further cause for concern.Mr McCormack, who is also mayor of Ashington, said: ‘Obviously we are concerned that there is now further delay in appointing a principal, because it causes problems for the management and strategic direction of the college. From the UCU point of view we hope they will get someone else appointed as quickly as possible to start picking up the college.’The governors have got some responsibility for all this. When leadership was needed to get the college back on track after the last principal left they took the easy option of looking to merge with NCG. That was never going to be a real, meaningful option, and their prevarication and delay has caused a lot of these problems.’A college insider said: ‘The place is currently rudderless and in a bit of chaos. The post of principal seems to be a poisoned chalice, and it’s not clear why Laurel Penrose changed her mind about the job.’Last night Jacqui Henderson, chair of the governors at the college, said: ‘It is with regret that Laurel Penrose contacted me to tell me that she will not be taking up her position at Northumberland College as planned.’We will seek to engage an interim principal as quickly as possible, and immediately start the process of recruiting to the permanent post. Meanwhile, we will secure additional professional further education advisory support if required.’On behalf of the governors I also want to express our appreciation of the ongoing commitment and support of the executive team and all the college.’We are all confident that this unfortunate situation will not deflect us from achieving our ambitions for Northumberland College, and our vision of creating a sustainable college delivering high quality education and training and outstanding opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.’The proposed merger with NCG was halted just weeks before it was due to go ahead. Northumberland College said its board had pulled out because it felt the merger proposal, agreed last summer, had ‘materially changed’ and ‘no longer represented the best solution for students, staff, stakeholders and the local community’.As acting principal, Mr Todd was against the merger, which was first proposed when the college was suffering funding problems, strike action by staff in protest at job losses, management restructuring and a major review.

Paul Champion
Strategic Project Manager

Mobile: 07540 704920

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