Highbury College judged to be making 'encouraging progress' after Further Education commissioner inspection

AN interim inspection of Highbury College has shown it has made ‘encouraging progress’ since its previous inspection found ‘serious issues regarding leadership, management and governance’.

Wednesday, 21st October 2020, 4:50 pm

Concerns over the running of the college were raised with the Further Education (FE) commissioner following a monitoring visit undertaken in October 2019. The college had also been judged as Requires Improvement following an Ofsted inspection in April 2018.

The inspections led to a restructuring of the governing body and the appointment of interim principal, Penny Wycherley. Former principal Stella Mbubaegbu announced at the start of the year that she would be leaving her post.

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Highbury College principal, Penny Wycherley, is pleased with the interim inspection report. Picture: Sarah Standing

The intervention report, which was published on October 9, praised the college for the ‘positive impact’ of the new leadership team.

The report stated: ‘Effective leadership and communication from the interim principal have improved staff morale and culture of the college. The staff survey and trade union feedback all reflect a significant step-change in openness and trust.

‘This has led to a more positive culture across the college with managers more empowered and engaged and staff now working well together.

‘Governance continues to improve with clear leadership by the chair, positive governor recruitment, regular meetings and developing structures.’

The report did highlight ongoing staff concerns in wanting ‘greater certainty regarding permanent leadership arrangements’.

Concerns had previously been raised about the management of the college’s finances including the financial implications of a legacy international project in Nigeria. However the FE commissioner, Richard Atkins, commended the interim team on the management of budgets but warned more still needs to be done to secure the college’s future.

Mr Atkins stated: ‘The interim leaders have proven their ability to uncover and deal with financial issues and have clarified the position with the overseas ventures and secured the cash position.

‘Governors trust the college leadership and the information that they are presented with; however, they must remember that the future sustainability of the organisation still needs securing.’

Interim principal, Penny Wycherley, was pleased with the progress made and commented: ‘I’m delighted the FE Commissioner has recognised the change in culture and morale and we look forward to welcoming him back to Highbury soon.’

The FE commissioner formally intervenes with post-16 institutions if he receives notification of concerns about finances from the Education and Skills Funding Agency, if a provider is judged Inadequate by Ofsted or, as was the case with Highbury, a college is found to be at high risk of failure following a diagnostic assessment.

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