NCG boss Joe Docherty quits following turbulent year


The boss of the largest college group in the country has quit, FE Week can reveal.

Joe Docherty (pictured) has left NCG with immediate effect. He becomes the third high-profile and highly paid college boss to resign in recent weeks.

His decision follows a turbulent year for the college group which has been rated poorly by Ofsted, seen its achievement rates fall, made mass redundancies, and suffered with staff strikes.

“After five years in post, Joe Docherty has decided to resign from his post as chief executive with immediate effect,” a spokesperson for NCG said.

“The board has accepted his resignation and will immediately begin the search for a successor.

“Chris Payne, executive director partnerships and assurance, will temporarily take over responsibilities of the chief executive as recruitment of a new chief executive starts immediately.”

In June Ofsted downgraded NCG from a grade two to a three in the face of poor achievement rates, which sit at around 10 points lower than the national average of 67.7 per cent, and lower than the minimum threshold of 62 per cent.

Redundancies at the group’s private training providers Intraining and Rathbone Training followed, where staff numbers were cut by up to a fifth at in an effort to save £3 million.

The group was further shaken when staff at the recently decoupled Lewisham Southwark College, a long-distance merger partner, went on strike over pay.

On top of this, a free school that NCG sponsors, the Discovery School, was forced to close down by the government.

FE Week also understands that the group will be dropped from the government’s final bidding round for Institutes of Technology after Ofsted hit it with a grade three.

Mr Docherty was paid a £227,000 salary in 2016/17, along with £33,000 in pension contributions and £21,000 from benefits in kind.

He is the third boss of a mega college to resign in recent weeks. He’s followed Andrew Cleaves leaving Birmingham Metropolitan College, and Dame Asha Khemka quitting her role at West Nottinghamshire College.

In June NCG chair and former ESFA boss Peter Lauener told FE Week he has “full confidence” in Mr Docherty, despite heavy criticism of leadership and management from Ofsted.

“I think Joe is a first-rate chief executive,” he said. “I am absolutely confident he is the right person to realise the potential of the organisation.”

NCG comprises Newcastle College, Newcastle Sixth Form College, Lewisham College, Southwark College, Carlisle College, Kidderminster College, West Lancashire College, Rathbone Training and InTraining.

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  1. I fully accept that people responsible for organisations of this size and complexity should be paid at a suitable level – BUT – is it acceptable that these individuals can just walk away when things go, badly wrong during their tenure?
    There’s far too many people enjoying the benefits of the public purse without the accountability!

  2. Sophie Watson

    I personally think staff satisfaction should be at the forefront of every business. With staff satisfaction comes consumer satisfaction which in turn increases income. Unfortunately NCG do not hold the same opinion and until they do, I see no bright future for the company.

  3. Gerry Bennett

    Is this the beginning of a worrying trend? Numerous mergers have taken place after the post-16 area reviews, with comments like ‘too big to fail’.
    If enrolments, outcomes, Ofsted reports are all unsatisfactory then a large number of students have been sold short.
    Perhaps we should enter the age of performance related salaries for Principals, it seems scandalous that ‘failing’ colleges should be rewarding their leaders with high salaries, and they resign and walk away.
    Reading the list of the component colleges that form NCG is interesting, and one wonders how it could ever be successful – some bright spark will be suggesting that it is broken up into smaller, more manageable institutions!