College principal takes ‘temporary leave of absence’ as chair of governors becomes interim chief

Warwickshire College principal Mariane Cavalli has taken a “temporary leave of absence” and will be replaced on an interim basis by chair of governors Sue Georgious.

The board of governors broke the news to staff at the college in an email, seen by FE Week, this morning.

Ms Cavalli (pictured) joined the college in 2010 after previously serving as principal at Croydon College since 2001. The college was rated as outstanding by Ofsted two years before her appointment.

Ms Georgious was appointed the college’s chair of governors in September last year and had previously served on the governing board since 2011.

A college spokesperson said: “The board of governors of Warwickshire College can confirm that the principal Mariane Cavalli has taken a temporary leave of absence from the college with immediate effect.

“The governing body has appointed Sue Georgious, the college’s  former chair of governors, as interim principal to lead the college during this time.

“Sue knows the college well and is deeply committed to it having previously been chair of the governing body. Steve Wood, previously vice chair, has been elected as the new chair.

“Sue has extensive experience in the FE sector in a variety of senior management roles including FE and open college networks and latterly as director at the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency.”

Under Ms Cavalli’s leadership Warwickshire College became one of five colleges that formed the Gazelle Group in November 2011.

According to an FE Week freedom of information request, the college has spent more than £200,000 on purchasing shares in Gazelle Transform Ltd and a further £324,000 for services in connection with developing a “new education concept” with Gazelle Global Ltd.

The college’s website stated that Ms Cavalli is president of the China-UK National Skills College in Qingzhou City, Shandong Province — the first British FE college in China, which is a joint venture between Warwickshire College and the Beijing Guozheng International Education Investment company.

She is also, according to the website, a professor of leadership development at the Hebei Normal University for Nationalities in China and professor of strategic management at Hubei University of Technology, China.

The college has around 16,000 students at sites in Leamington, Rugby, Warwick, Henley, Moreton Morrell and Pershore and was allocated £10,011,582 funding by the Skills Funding Agency as of June 1.

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  1. I was at the Trident Centre at Warwickshire College and every time I went to the Leamington site, the Principal was nowhere to be seen.

    The college has recruited lots of senior people all with connections to Croydon College.

    The sums of money spent on Gazelle are astonishing. Then there are flights to Boston and top hotels in Boston as well for “Gazelle”.

    I am glad Sue is there now. She cares about the college and the staff. Sue is a visible and popular leader with the staff.

    • Daisy Renton

      At last Gazelle is under the microscope! Sadly there are other FE colleges which do not have such vigilant governors, or worse, colleges where the governors are too close to the SLT! Wider scrutiny is needed to ensure Gazelle is investigated across the FE sector! It is after all public money that is being frittered away at the expense of students !

  2. Ruby Adams

    The simple fact is that the Principal was invisible to the staff and students. No one knew what was going on. No one ever knew where she was.

    Recruitment policy was a mystery. At the Pershore site, an extra ‘Principal’ was appointed despite the fact that the job was never properly advertised.

    I knew the last HR Director who resigned because of the chaos there.

    The Gazelle activities are a circus. The priorities are all wrong.

    I wonder how much the Principal earns. I bet her last bonus was more than I earned last year. The pension must be very good as well.

    I am happy that there is at last some action being taken.

    I want the new person to talk to and listen to the students.

    I want the person in charge to actually turn up at college to do a job.

  3. (Post edited by Administrator)

    How the mighty fall….!!!! Invisible Principals….an interesting concept- perhaps Gazelle could pay a consultancy 50k to write a thought piece on this subject. A bit like they are paying Seven Hills £2000 EACH for 35 staff to attend a Gazelle Accelerator Programme – where Seven Hills consult the staff from Gazelle Colleges about the marketing, branding and comms within Gazelle Colleges. All the money goes to Seven Hills.

    I guess the above is just one example of why news of Ms CAVALLI came as no surprise. Controversy follows her wherever she goes. As they say there is no smoke without fire. As a mere minion at Warickshire I have followed her progress whilst here. As a city girl, I guess she regretted coming here from the first day. This wasn’t London. There were no bright lights. Yet she probably came because she wanted bigger, better, higher…….well she certainly got all,those. My guess is it was all probably too big, much better and much higher for her to cope with.

    She did not help,herself. She had this innate ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. A bit like foot in mouth disease. Staff were left bewildered about some of the things she said and the way she said them. She didn’t make friends. So as far as her first 50 days were concerned she had failed miserably. Don’t get me wrong she did all the right things in the first two weeks…went into staff rooms, engaged with staff……….but that was the first two weeks. I remember she came into our staff room and no body knew what to say. She looked immaculate, expensive perfume….but little else to offer.

    And then she unleashed her Gazelle. Was that her last throw of the dice? Was that her way of making out she was working for the Interests of the college, the students, the staff. Was that her last way of showing the Govs she was useful? She clearly didn’t care. But it was perfect for her. Imagine the glam and glitz of travel here and travel there, all those air miles….whoopee. Was it first class, was it 5 star? Does she care? We heard rumours about this and that : Boston, Ireland, China….a Principal who didn’t like being in a college …but preferred to be galavanting around the globe. Not bad for a girl with an exotic name, Lancastrian lilt, and dark looks. She told us at staff talks she was from working class roots. She certainly didn’t behave like that. Every time she was coming to our site, the whisper would go round and everyone would be on edge, best behaviour … if the Queen herself was about to arrive. But 9/10 she would never come….she’s had an emergency, urgent college business, all the excuses would come out. We knew she didn’t care.

    Her foot soldiers were no better often unable to replace her, unable to communicate the message, sometimes apologetic on her behalf. They were the ones left to convert us to Gazelles. I attended one session with one of her Deputies and they spent an hour explaining Teaching and Learning to teachers who do this day in day out. I remember thinking they clearly has no idea what they are talking about, they have no idea who their audience is and they doesn’t realise that communication is a two way process. Another inept appointment by the Principal. Her foot soldiers were a reflection of herself: detached from the real world and the reality of what was happening on the ground. We’re they just STOOGES? How much was she paying them?

    The whole notion of entrepreneurial learning was presented as a new way of doing things, lesson plans were changed, schemes of work were changed……Overnight. We had to be T shaped…..I had never heard a human being described in this way. It turned out that this new tick box approach to T and L was going to make me an entrepreneurial teacher ….delivering entrepreneurial learning. I wondered what Geoff Petty would say if he knew…..Utter tosh……emperors new clothes and another way of describing employability …..something I had delivered for years as part of the core programme. It’s a good thing Ofsted did not come in and ask us what this new, revolutionary method was…..we would look like idiots.

    There was the China dream. A VP China in post who with the Principal was going to bring in the bacon… much did the college spend on this venture? what was the net outcome for the college? Pipe dreams about setting up a college in China. Has it been built? Have we got 10,000 students lined up to teach? I hear the shopping is great in Shang Hai…..handbags, scarves, designer shoes…..but what in reality did this cost the college? Please tell us.

    So what’s left…….but HOPE.

    Lets hope Sue the interim will do a complete job and deal with these hangers on who have benefitted by who they know and not what they know or down to their skills set. I am sure they are looking over their shoulder. They should do the honourable thing…….

    Lets hope the Governing body sees this as an opportunity to refocus the college around students and teaching and learning….back to basics.

    Lets hope the Governing body withdraw from Gazelle and remove the beast that has beleaguered the college like a dark cloud.

    Lets hope the Governors can show staff the spend on Gazelle to show where the money went.

    Lets hope Sue gets out there and is visible and genuinley listens to students and staff and puts the pride back into Warwickshire College.

    Lets hope Sue manages the job losses in a humane way….they are inevitable we know. Please remove the ideas portal on the Intranet …we all know that is a ruse. We know that it is too late to make savings. And please don’t come to staff meetings, stand there and then play a video of your self…..telling us of job losses as Ms CAVALLI did… insensitive was that…..disgusting. Great advice from a great overpaid mind… doubt.

    As for Ms CAVALLI , we all know FE is extremely fickle. No doubt her chances of an OBE have gone but she may re-emerge at some point – flush with her pay out – looking for the next place to add her value.

    Or may be she will do the honourable thing and hang up her handbag once and for all……..

    Post edited by Administrator

    • So, Ms Cavalli is to be judged on her clothes, perfume, surname, accent and looks. I do hope you are not a teacher, given your prejudices and bile.

  4. Tammy the dog sitter

    I really hope the Governors go through the principal’s expenses line by line. Especially on flights. How were these paid? Get the forensic team in.

    Employers, business partners, the local enterprise group – they laughed at the college because they knew the principal would cancel or fail to turn up at meetings. Especially if the meetings started before 12 noon.

    I am sure Seven Hills PR are working on a crises management strategy – all paid for from FE funds.

    All the principal had to do was turn up to work. It’s not asking much.

    I suppose I will have to clean up the mess on the floor again.

  5. What nasty, snide, ill-informed, judgmental, smart-a**ed, personal, narrow, poorly-reasoned and back-biting comments some education people will make, without a shred of evidence or a thought for the due process that they would expect to apply to themselves.

    • Barbra Middleton

      Ill-informed, you obviously haven’t seen the figures released by UCU which they have gained through the freedom of information act. The wages are obscene, the expenses bills and spends on “consultancy” even more so. You try having worked at Warwickshire College under her rule, it has gone from bad to worse.

  6. Miss Cavalli once bragged, when talking about the long serving and loyal staff at Warwickshire College, that at Croydon no one stayed longer than 9 years. It’s good to see that she is Five years ahead of her own target. I hope that now she is gone staff will feel able to voice their opinions once more instead of living in fear of questioning some of the over-blown policies that have been trotted out over the last few years. T-shaped learners, entrepreneurial teaching – all things most of us in vocational education have been doing for ages.

  7. On the Gazelle website you can see a notice for a 3 day cour se on leadership with Cavalli as a main participant. Surely now those who have responsibility for other Colleges embroiled in this group should now be asking searching questions. I am referring to the Governors.

  8. I would say that being familiar with one of the colleges where Mariane worked previously, every person I spoke to (months before this – so completely objective) who mentioned Mariane said the exact opposite of what has been said above; that’s without prompting and at all levels. They said that Mariane was open, spoke regularly with staff, had high expectations, would help at every level. I don’t know Mariane personally, but wanted to say this as I find the reactions above and public bashing really frightening and lacking in any objectivity! Are these the responses of people with professional integrity, working in FE, with young students as ‘role models’? Issues, if they exist, should be dealt with professionally, not by trolling.

  9. You Again!

    Why is the chair of governors taking over? Governors are supposed to have oversight of colleges, not run them. For one thing, they don’t have the requisite skills or experience. Can we expect to see a raft of take-overs by the more ambitious of the self-appointed ‘great and good’ that go to make up many of the nation’s amateur governing bodies?

  10. Emma Dale

    What do I think? I think that the wisdom of such expensive investments should be questioned and that some good and thorough questioning of accounts must be done. Others need to be held to account too – ask Peter Jones (Dragon’s Den) how he justifies the charges he makes for the use of his name and just how he persuaded colleges to buy into his scheme.
    What else do I think? I think it is wrong to publicly hang someone out to dry in the media until due processes have been observed. Warwickshire College has faced turbulent times and many staff will be worried and frightened for their professional and financial security. It is a strong college and it will survive, let’s not bring it down with gossip.

  11. A Taxpayer

    The kind of slanderous, unsubstantiated, venal personal attacks being published by anonymous parties should be excluded from a newspaper dedicated to further education. Shame on these cowards and on ‘FE Week’ for allowing them to champion their agendas!

  12. Philip Briggs

    Making personal attacks is unjustified in any circumstances and particularly unbecoming from people involved in FE.

    I know from my time at the college that Mariane was totally committed to the college and was taking it to a different and better league, the energy she brought was transforming. She has unsurpassed vision and dedication to the future of the college and education, it is that which drives her. She is ambitious, ambitious for the college, ambitious for its students, ambitious for education; what is wrong with that?

    The Government have forced colleges across the country to face difficult choices through cutting funding. I know her board and it is weak and of inadequate quality for a college of this size. She has been badly let down by her board who have crossed the bounds of governorship and acted irresponsibly. She was entitled to expect and have the full support of her Chair and board, not this outcome.

    A sad day for Warwickshire and all of its students.

  13. Herbert

    Innuendo, gleeful gossip and rumour are elevated by many of the ‘commentators’ here to the level of statements of fact. You should be ashamed of yourselves. I do hope that you’re not teaching my kids such prejudiced, judgmental attitudes.

    There are few in education, let alone in FE, who work harder for quality opportunities for students than Mariane Cavalli, and Warwickshire College should be ashamed of itself.

    The governors have caved in to malignant pressure from those who don’t like to be challenged, to be held to high standards, to be required to think beyond the conventions and norms of the educational techniques of the nineteenth century.

    Appalling treatment of a genuinely inspiring leader.

  14. The members of staff of Warwickshire College should hang their heads in shame: making childish and offensive comments about Mariane’s accent, background and dress sense. Such behaviour renders you unfit to stand in front of students.

    Mariane Cavalli is a woman of immense integrity. Brutally honest but totally committed to transforming education and creating opportunities. She has always been a visible Principal with her finger on the pulse.

    SHAME on the Governing Body for their behaviour – how dodgy is the appointment of this Georgious woman? Where were the Governors in performing their fiduciary duties if at this stage people are crowing about investment in the Gazelle initiative?

    SHAME on FE Week. The only newspaper dedicated to FE and Skills has become no better than former Sun Newspaper – what next? ‘phone hacking? Nick Linford …… you should be ashamed of yourself.

  15. Outraged

    This is an absolute travesty. Cavalli is a brilliant leader, and works damn hard for students, current and future, her college, and the wider education sector. And this is how she is repaid. With the UCU, not known for ever supporting positive change within the sector, hounding her. With her governing body, who should back her up, ruining her career and name. With her chair of governors stitching her up. And with cowardly and nasty staff members making outrageous comments about her. The lot of you should hang your heads in shame. And, yes, I’ve worked at Warwickshire College, so I do know what I’m talking about.

  16. Anyone who thinks that some of the comments made above are unfair obviously has no knowledge of what has been going on at Warwickshire College over the past four years. The passion and strength of feeling communicated in some of the comments from people who work, or have worked at the College must tell you something. I worked at Warwickshire College for nearly 25 years, until I was made redundant 18 months ago (yes, there have been an awful lot of other redundancies at the College, not just the ones mentioned recently in the press) so I feel well qualified to comment on how the atmosphere and morale of the staff has deteriorated since 2010. I hope that the College will carry out a full and thorough investigation into what has been going on and that it can get back on track and look to the future with a new and positive attitude – heaven knows, it deserves it!

    • Roger Travis

      Pretty much every college in the county has had to make redundancies over the last four years or so. It’s called cutting one’s cloth. There has been a huge economic mess, and addressing it has, right or wrong, involved cuts in FE funding. Or haven’t you heard? Stop being so parochial! Wake up people, FE needs visionary people like Cavalli to seek out new sources of funding. Much has been made of the college’s investment in Gazelle. Well, hello public sector people, investments are designed to make a return. Without one it’s not possible to have the other. It’s called the real world. Get used to it. Adapt. Stop trying to prevent inevitable change. And stop hanging out to dry the very people, such as Cavalli, who will provide the sector with a future. I guess you’ve got, or will get, a nice fat public sector pension DW. Without people like Cavalli, chasing replacement funding for the future, your colleagues won’t benefit from the same gold-plating.

  17. Jane Tanner

    Apart from the personal attacks, which people in FE with the responsibility of nurturing our young people of tomorrow, should be thoroughly ashamed of, this article focuses not on the real issues. As a Governor of another college, we scrutinise and approve all Senior Management salaries, bonuses, investments and senior appointments. This is done at Corporation and Committee level. This no doubt was the case at Warwickshire College. Therefore it is the governors who should be being held account rather than placing blame on others. It is a sign of weak and incompetent governance to blame others for your own failings. It is these very same governors who have appointed one of their own in the interim, and then self appointed a new Chair. These are decisions which should be scrutinised for transparency and legal standing and staff at Warwickshire College should be very concerned for the future with this culture of behind the scenes dealings. The new interim principal will still have deliver the budget savings, so what has changed……just that Warwickshire College has lost a truly inspirational and visionary leader. A very sad day.

    • Orange Bob

      Hear hear, very well said. So many people are missing the point here. The chair at Warwickshire appears to have engineered a coup. That is very bad news for the college, some staff of which, to judge by comments herein, prefer such back-room dealing to the openness associated with Cavalli.

  18. I can only surmise that the support for Gazelle is self generated as I also know what it is like to work in a Gazelle college and cannot find anything positive to say! It isn’t parochial to feel abused by your institution whilst the SLT bask in their new found wealth whilst staff gasp for breath in the face of even more redundancies! The pay rises of SLT across Gazelle would have saved a couple of frontline staff and the cost of the jollies to Boston and China may well have saved a few more! Wake up and smell the stench of self interest not specifically at Warwick but ALL Gazelle colleges! No redundancies fir the SLTs may be a clue!

    • Warkscol employee

      Daisy, did you not read the Warwickshire college all staff e mail that informed you of the proposed CLT payroll savings. I did. So perhaps you should be more factual in your comments and postings and refrain from misrepresenting and badmouthing your college

  19. Eadith Forrest

    Is it not a matter of public record as minutes of board meetings are publicly available, that the investments made by founder Gazelle Colleges were approved by their boards. Decisions noted in their publicly available minutes. These investments will have been made in good faith to refocus their colleges and the fact that over 20 colleges now form the Gazelle Colleges Group is testament to their shared vision and drive for a new FE focus

  20. Rugby Business

    As a local employer we all know that schools and colleges are not good at preparing young people for the world of work. I have recently taken two new apprentices from Warwickshire college and I am daily impressed by their entrepreneurial attitude to work and their readiness to face the challenges of work. Well done Marianne Cavalli and Gazelle Founder College Principals.

    • Richard Le Corney

      Why do these supporters of Gazelle not identify themselves? “Rugby Business”, “Orange Bob”, “G”, the shy student miraculously wrought into an entrepreneurial go-getter! What have they got to hide? That they are actually gazelles hiding behind pseudonyms?

  21. Now ex UCU

    The Principal is good looking, with a Manchester lilt, a smart dresser, interesting name, nice aftershave, quality leather briefcase. If the Principal’s name was Mr Cavalli, would he have attracted the personal abuse being hurled at Ms Cavalli? Would he have been asked to hang up his briefcase? Not a chance, so much for FE and College Unions championing equality and diversity. As Union members and paid up members of the Labour Party, shame on you all. Does the TUC support your Neanderthal approach? Take note, I will be raising this at a future GC meeting and with EC and BLP officers. I was also at Leamington when Ms Cavalli personally delivered the news in respect of government cuts and the required college savings. I remember she prefaced playing her prerecorded video by explaining it was being played across all of our centres at EXACTLY the same time. She did say whilst it felt strange the consistency of the message was what was important, given that she could not be at all 6 centres simultaneously. She did not rely on the video recording. She stood up, faced it. She introduced the regional UNISON branch Secretary. Not sure what was disgusting about that! BG get your facts straight rather than misrepresent your co-workers.

  22. How does ‘Warkscol employee’ know that ‘Daisy’ would have received the Warwickshire college all staff e mail that informed of the proposed CLT payroll savings?