A long-standing college principal has retired with immediate effect due to a terminal illness.

John Callaghan, who has led Solihull College & University Centre for the past seven years, stepped down yesterday.

He has worked in the further education and skills sector for over 33 years, holding roles at four different colleges as well as a spell at the Learning and Skills Council.

In an email to local stakeholders, seen by FE Week, Solihull College’s chair of governors Barbara Hughes said: “I am sad to inform you that John Callaghan is retiring immediately due to ill health. John has a terminal illness.

“John has been an excellent principal at Solihull over the last seven years, highly valued by students, staff, stakeholders and the local community.

“I appreciate the news of John’s retirement and illness is surprising and distressing. I’m sure you join me in wishing John every possible happiness and comfort as he spends time with his family.”

Lindsey Stewart, Solihull College’s deputy principal, has been appointed as acting principal. Recruitment for a permanent principal will take place early in the New Year, Hughes said.

According to his biography of Solihull College’s website, Callaghan started his career with Birmingham City Council in 1977 and trained as a software specialist.

He joined Tamworth & Lichfield College in 1988 and worked as vice principal while also being seconded part time to the Learning and Skill Council for a period.

Derby College was Callaghan’s next destination where he was vice principal before having a short spell in the private sector. He re-joined Derby College in 2006 as deputy principal before joining North East Worcestershire College in 2010 as principal.

He then became principal of Solihull College & University Centre in June 2014 and successfully led a challenging merger with Stratford-Upon-Avon College in 2017 following the Coventry and Warwickshire area review.

During this time, Callaghan has also been appointed as president of the Solihull Chamber of Commerce. He is also the FE principal’s representative for the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership.

Hughes said Callaghan leaves Solihull College, which is rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted, in an “excellent position ready for the future, with high quality teaching and learning, invaluable support to students, sound and secure finances and an extremely well-managed organisation at all levels”.

She added: “The past year of Covid has been one of the most challenging for the college and it is to John’s credit that the pandemic has been managed with compassion, clarity and safety.”

The college is producing a tribute book for Callaghan to thank him for his service and dedication.

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