Sandwell College announces new principal after eight-month delay

This is latest announcement held up by DfE and Treasury approval of principal salaries

This is latest announcement held up by DfE and Treasury approval of principal salaries

Sandwell College has finally announced its new principal – eight months after final interviews took place.

Lisa Capper will join the West Midlands college this November, replacing Graham Pennington who has held the post since 2014.

Recruitment for a successor to Pennington began last summer with applications closing in September and final interviews scheduled in October.

The college did not explain the delay at the time of going to press, however FE Week understands the college was unable to announce Capper’s appointment until the government had approved her salary package.

This makes Sandwell the latest college to face lengthy delays in announcing new leaders following the government’s reclassification of colleges to the public sector.

The Sandwell “family of colleges” includes Cadbury Sixth Form and Central Saint Michael’s Sixth Form. 

The Department for Education promised in February that it would “streamline” signing-off senior pay approval requests after FE Week revealed wait times of up to five months.

Reclassification rules stipulate that colleges must obtain DfE and Treasury approval for hiring senior staff on pay packages of £150,000 or more.

Sandwell College’s 2022/23 accounts show that incumbent principal Pennington was paid a basic salary of £196,000, plus £40,000 in pension contribution, taking his total pay package to £236,000.

The principal salary was “designed to attract the very best candidate to lead Sandwell College,” the advert said, but did not specify a salary in accordance with DfE rules. 

The college will also offer an £8,000 allowance for relocation costs and 35 days of holiday.

Senior pay red tape is also causing chaos for colleges wanting to give severance payments of £50,000 or more, where they are equal to three months’ salary or more, an exit package of £100,000 or more, or where the employee earns over £150,000.

Pennington will stay on at Sandwell College until November to facilitate a handover.

Capper has been CEO and principal at Stoke on Trent College since January 2022. In January 2021, she was awarded the MBE for services to young people.

Before her principalship at Stoke on Trent, she led education and skills provision at the social justice charity Nacro, which involved transforming Totton College to receive a grade 2 Ofsted rating in 2019. 

She has also been vice principal of North Warwickshire and Hinckley College group and executive director of the college’s Midlands Academies Trust.

Previously, she served in the senior civil service as a specialist in FE at the Department for Education and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills leading on initiatives such as Skills for Life and WorldSkills.

Capper said: “I am delighted to be joining the Sandwell family of colleges at such an exciting time. The college offers great opportunity for the young people and residents of Sandwell and Birmingham to achieve their education and skills ambitions and develop their careers. I am looking forward to working with the talented and dedicated teams across all sites and hope that I can bring my skills and experience to build on their tremendous achievements.”

Alan Taylor, chair of Sandwell’s board, said: “Lisa brings extensive experience of senior leadership and governance in further education, and through the roles she has held in colleges, charities and in government, a demonstrable commitment to the learners we serve. We are delighted to welcome Lisa to the Sandwell family of colleges and look forward to her joining us in the autumn.

“On behalf of the board, I should like to extend our thanks to Graham for all his work and contribution to the progress of the colleges over the past decade. Under Graham’s leadership and by working collaboratively, we have seen the colleges go from strength to strength.”

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One comment

  1. Albert Wright

    The current package for the outgoing principal seems very generous, particularly regarding the pension contribution.

    Strange that the article does not give details of the remuneration package for the incoming principal

    Does the Government want to cap salaries at £150k pa and is this too low?

    What are the national criteria for deciding salaries in FE or is it up to the local college?