Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Principal Ready for the Challenge of 19,000 Students: Fe News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Principal Ready for the Challenge of 19,000 Students: Fe News

Article excerpt

Second ever federation between two colleges could save Pounds 1m next year.

Many college staff applying for a job at a neighbouring institution would be at pains to keep their interview concealed from their employer. But when North Warwickshire and Hinckley College principal Marion Plant turned up to be interviewed for the top job at South Leicestershire College, she had her employer's blessing. And this was not because it was keen to get rid of her.

There was more than just a new job at stake: if Ms Plant impressed the governors at South Leicestershire, the two colleges planned to form a federation with her as joint principal.

Ms Plant was well aware that this was a high-stakes job application. "I certainly put myself at risk," she said. Luckily for her, she passed the "very rigorous" interview. As a result, the two colleges have formed what is only the second federation between two colleges, with a combined income of Pounds 45 million and more than 19,000 learners between them.

Following what Ofsted described as a "significant" decline in success rates, and then almost two years under interim principal Jim Aleander, South Leicestershire's governors were keen to find a lasting solution that would help them to balance the books. After analysing a range of options, they decided that North Warwickshire and Hinckley was their preferred partner. The colleges had previously cooperated on a shared services project.

Under the new structure, North Warwickshire and Hinckley - which already has a trust responsible for running four academies - and South Leicestershire will retain their own separate governing bodies. These will be advised by a single federation board, although this will have no decision-making powers.

Ms Plant is jointly employed by the two colleges, with each paying 50 per cent of her wages. In theory, her time is split equally between the two sites but so far she has been busy getting to know her new colleagues at South Leicestershire. Both colleges will appoint duty principals to take charge when Ms Plant is occupied at the other institution.

While federations in the schools sector are nothing new, in the FE sector only Kingston and Carshalton colleges have previously entered into a similar agreement. The University and College Union has raised concerns. …

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