Jo Pretty reflects on a challenging first year in the job after FE Commissioner Dr David Collins recognised the “good start” made by her leadership team as it tries to turn around precarious college finances.

When I found myself in my new role as principal my direction was clear — I had to stabilise a £15m income college whist moving it forward in terms of quality.

The challenges faced at the college were quality, short term liquidity, caused by an over stretch in capital works, poor financial planning and control.

Establishing a strong, committed leadership team early on was essential.

The new team moved swiftly to meet enrolment targets and undertake the fundamental alignment of curriculum planning to budget planning.

The college has undergone substantial restructuring resulting in significant cost savings to date, with around £1.4m of savings to be realised next year, we now have robust control over the colleges expenditure.

I’m extremely pleased with the progress made in only a few months.

We’re stronger than we’ve been in recent years, with better quality and improved relationships with all stakeholders.

We’ve grown our apprenticeship numbers by 25 per cent and our applications for next year are also up by 17 per cent— the highest numbers we have seen for a long time.

Attendance has improved and all indications point to improved success rates. Ofsted recognised our ‘green shoots’ back in November and we’re now starting to see blooms.

Staff within the college are extremely dedicated to our students, they have been resilient to the changes we have made and have worked incredibly hard over recent months.

I find myself proud to be the chief executive of such a resilient college and a, frankly, incredible team.

We are pleased that the FE Commissioner has confidence in the ability of the leadership team and staff at the college and has recommended a college lead recovery.

Both the Skills Funding Agency and our bankers have been supportive of the college and we have made significant strides in improving our position.

Staff at the college are keen to demonstrate the progress we have made at our next Ofsted inspection.

I’m very confident that the college will continue to make good progress and provide the first rate education for students of Lowestoft and the surrounding areas that they deserve.