Staff unsure of under fire principal’s future

Staff at a college in the South West are in the dark about the future of their principal after an internal memo was sent out saying she would not be returning this term.

A new acting principal has replaced Wiltshire College’s Di Dale, but a spokesperson declined to comment on whether she would be returning.

Di Dale

Di Dale

Mrs Dale, who had been principal for more than seven years, came under fire from the University and College Union (UCU) in 2012 when it passed a vote of no confidence in college leadership.
And the latest twist comes just three weeks after an Ofsted inspection.

A college spokesperson declined to say why Mrs Dale was not at the college, nor comment on the results of the inspection.

However, vice principal Ben Allen said: “In line with good business practice when a key member of the team is out of the office for a period of time, we informed staff at the beginning of the week that the principal will not be returning to the college for the rest of this term and that Amanda Burnside will take on the role of acting principal in Di’s absence.”

Local media has reported that the memo to staff from chair of governors Helen Birchenough said: “Di Dale will not be returning to the college this term, I have asked Amanda Burnside to take on the role of acting principal.”

Mrs Burnside, who joined the college three months ago as vice principal, is a former executive director at Swindon College, which was rated outstanding by Ofsted in March last year.
Nick Varney, University and College Union (UCU) regional official for South West England, welcomed her appointment.

He said: “UCU members at Wiltshire College have been very unhappy with the current leadership and passed a vote of no confidence in July 2012.

“If the appointment of an acting principal results in a change of practice and leadership style, staff will be delighted.

“We look forward to working with the acting principal to build a strong and successful college.”

The college was twice rated as satisfactory following its previous two inspections in 2007 and 2012 and last year parted company with its fifth vice principal in five years — only one of which left for another job.