Principal at mega college in debt to the DfE steps down

One of the most highly paid FE college principals in the country has stepped down with immediate effect.

Andrew Cleaves’ departure from Birmingham Metropolitan College, which he has led since 2014, was confirmed by the college today following local news reports.

Cliff Hall has been appointed interim principal until a permanent replacement is found, a college spokesperson said.

Steve Hollis, chair of governors at BMet, said: “In accepting Andrew’s resignation, the corporation respects his decision and acknowledges that he feels the time is right to step down”.

Mr Cleaves, who was a senior executive at National Express before taking up his role at BMet, was the second most highly-paid principal in 2016/17.

According to the Education and Skills Funding Agency accounts, he earned a massive £266,000 in 2016/17, despite the college owing almost £14 million in exceptional financial support cash – more than any other college.

BMet was rated ‘requires improvement’ for the second time in a row at its most recent Ofsted inspection in March last year. It’s understood that Ofsted are due to revisit the college in the coming months.

It’s one of the largest colleges in the country, with an income of £61.3 million and 16,000 learners in 2016/17.

Its total debt for the year was £23.4 million, and it has held a notice of concern for financial health since July 2015, when it also received a visit from the FE commissioner.

According to its own published accounts, the money owing to the ESFA stemmed from a £16 million bailout loan provided by the ESFA to the college in August 2015 as part of a recovery plan.

The funding agency “reinforced its support” to the college by “providing an interest-free £16 million loan to the college in 2015/16”.

“£1.5 million was repaid during 2015/16 and a further £0.7 million in 2016/17, leaving an outstanding amount of £13.8 million to be paid over the next two years,” the accounts said.

Mr Hall, who will take up his post on Monday (October 1), previously stepped in as interim principal at Nescot following the departure of Sunaina Mann in mid-2016, and led the college until early 2017.