College U-turns on paid president gig after backlash

Ex-principal's son also resigns after nepotism accusations

Ex-principal's son also resigns after nepotism accusations

Exclusive

Weston College has U-turned on introducing a paid role of “president” that was promised to England’s highest-paid principal, Sir Paul Phillips, after he retired.

The college has also parted ways with Phillips’ son, Joe, just months after his recent controversial promotion from finance director to chief operating officer.

Joe Phillips joins two deputy principals who have left the college’s senior leadership team since interim principal Jacqui Ford took the helm in September.

The revelations come as Weston College was downgraded by Ofsted from an ‘outstanding’ rating awarded 10 years ago to ‘good’ this week. Its near-18-month hunt for a new permanent principal is also still ongoing.

Last summer, the college was embroiled in a governance and nepotism row after FE Week revealed its plans for a tailor-made president position for then-principal Sir Paul Phillips (pictured), timed for when he was due to step down at the end of the academic year. The position was said to be “absolutely key” to the college’s governance initiatives as well as “profile bids”.

The recruitment process for Phillips’ successor was thrown into chaos as candidates questioned the remunerated position and the recent promotion of Joe Phillips was put under the spotlight. A union representative said at the time Weston College looked like it was “being run as Sir Paul’s personal fiefdom”.

FE Week can now reveal governors have dropped plans for a president of Weston College and has no plans to fill the role. 

The college refused to say why the position was ditched.

Chair of governors Andrew Leighton-Price said: “Sir Paul Phillips retired from his role at Weston College as of August 31, 2023. He has not taken on any other positions within the college group, paid or otherwise. We wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement.”

No longer a family affair

Meanwhile, Sir Paul’s son Joe Phillips has stepped down after working at the college for 13 years. He joined the college in 2010 and was promoted last year from vice-principal for finance and business planning to deputy principal and chief operating officer, while his father was still in post.

The college doubled down at the time that there was no conflict of interest and his father had “no influence” on the promotion.

As Ford arrived as acting principal, Joe Phillips became the de-facto second-in-command.

Ofsted’s latest report on Weston noted how there have been “several recent changes at senior leadership level”. The college confirmed Joe Phillips was one of those changes.

Leighton-Price said: “Three of our senior leaders, including two deputy principals and the chief operating officer, have embarked on exciting new journeys outside the college.

“While we deeply appreciate their past contributions, we’re confident in our strong and highly experienced leadership team’s ability to continue to drive the college forward.”

New principal awaiting approval

Weston’s principal role was due to be filled by then-deputy principal of Cornwall College Kate Wills, but her job offer was withdrawn last June for undisclosed reasons. She is now back at Cornwall College in a different deputy principal role.

At Weston College, interim principal Jacqui Ford is set to steer the ship until summer, FE Week understands.

The search for a permanent principal is still ongoing, according to the college.

Sources told FE Week that the college has found a permanent principal but is awaiting approval from the Department for Education, which could be held up following the reclassification requirement for government approval on salaries above £150,000 (see page 5).

Sir Paul Phillips was England’s highest paid principal with a basic salary in 2022 of £258,000, plus pension contributions, consultancy work and benefits in kind taking his total pay package to £362,000.

Leighton-Price said: “Collaborating closely with the DfE and FE Commissioner, the college governors are actively engaged in the process of appointing a new principal and chief executive.”

‘Good’ for governance

Ofsted inspectors noted during their December 2023 inspection that the governance of the quality of education at Weston College is “mostly effective”.

The report published this week said the governors appropriately challenge leaders on education but “do not always challenge leaders enough on the timeliness and impact of the remedial actions taken,” leading to slow improvements on the weakest programmes.

However, inspectors also praised governors and leaders for listening and taking timely actions on the feedback from staff at all levels in the college.

“For example, leaders have recently appointed well-being champions to help staff manage their workload. As a result, staff feel valued and well supported by leaders and managers.”

Leighton-Price said: “Weston College is immensely proud of its ‘good’ Ofsted rating, achieved across all eight areas, alongside a ‘strong’ outcome for meeting regional skills needs.”

Latest education roles from

Exams Manager

Exams Manager

Buckinghamshire College Group

Apprenticeship Skills Tutor – Level 7 Senior Leadership / Management

Apprenticeship Skills Tutor – Level 7 Senior Leadership / Management

RNN Group

GCSE and Functional Skills English Lecturer

GCSE and Functional Skills English Lecturer

Riverside College

MIS (Management Information Systems) Assistant

MIS (Management Information Systems) Assistant

RNN Group

Curriculum Leader – Engineering (Adult Programmes)

Curriculum Leader – Engineering (Adult Programmes)

Gateshead College

Apprentice Development Leader

Apprentice Development Leader

GP Strategies

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

Why we’re backing our UK skills ‘Olympians’ (and why you should too)

This August, teams from over 200 nations will gather to compete in the sticky heat of the Paris summer...

Advertorial
Sponsored post

Is your organisation prepared for a major incident?

We live in an unpredictable world where an unforeseen incident or environmental event could disrupt a Further Education (FE)...

Advertorial
Sponsored post

A new chapter in education protection!

Gallagher is a specialist in the Further Education sector, working with over 75% of Further Education colleges in the...

Advertorial
Sponsored post

Pearson is planting the seed for sustainability talent with new HTQ

Sustainability is rapidly becoming a key organisational goal for many businesses looking to make a difference in society, the...

Advertorial

More from this theme

Colleges, Ofsted

Second ‘outstanding’ for Cheshire college

Inspectors said teachers and leaders were “passionate” about providing life-changing opportunities for young people and adults

Josh Mellor
Colleges

City of Wolverhampton College announces new principal after financial turnaround

Comes shortly after the college exited long-running government intervention

Josh Mellor
Colleges

Students volunteer to support their local communities

Colleges took part in loneliness and local sports initiatives as part of volunteers’ week

Anviksha Patel
Colleges

Squeezed margins could put more colleges on government notice  

AoC's finance guru explains why cash is up but proportion of healthy EBITDAs is down

Billy Camden

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One comment

  1. Neil Richardson

    Don’t staff at Weston College have supervisors to help them manage their workload, thus making ‘well-being champions’ an unnecessary extra during a decade when many colleges are not well-funded, at least, not in the organization’s lower levels?