Stoke-on-Trent College announces former skills civil servant as new principal

Lisa Capper replaces Denise Brown

A former senior skills civil servant has been announced as the new principal of Stoke-on-Trent College.

Lisa Capper took the reins at the college this week after joining from Nacro – a social justice and education charity, where she worked as principal and director of education.

Capper, who previously held roles in the Department for Education and Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, will replace outgoing Stoke-on-Trent College boss Denise Brown. Brown has led the college since July 2017 and is now moving over to South Essex College as its principal.

Stoke-on-Trent College has struggled financially in recent years, and the DfE bailed it out to the tune of £20 million in 2018. Ofsted has also rated the college as ‘requires improvement’ in each of its last three full inspections since 2016.

But the college has been on the mend and recorded an underlying operating surplus of £165,000 in its latest published accounts, for 2020.

The college’s self-assessed financial health grade for 2019/20 was ‘outstanding’, and the FE Commissioner’s team praised the college that year for being on a “strong trajectory of improvement”.

The college had spent six years in government intervention but the Education and Skills Funding Agency lifted its financial notice to improve in May 2021.

Capper said she was looking forward to leading Stoke-on-Trent College through the “next phase of its journey to help even more young people, adults and employers alike to achieve their skills ambitions and to develop their careers”.

She added: “I hope that I can use my skills and experience from elsewhere, build on the current achievements, and support the team in achieving its ambition, and that of the city.”

Prior to joining Nacro, Capper was the vice principal for the schools of North Warwickshire and Hinckley College and executive director of the Midlands Academies Trust.

Previously, she served in the senior civil service as a specialist in further education at the Department for Education, working on the adult literacy and numeracy skills for life initiative.

She also developed the commission on adult vocational education, national skills academies and led the successful bid for WorldSkills London 2011 for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, for which she won the permanent secretary’s award. 

Capper is also an independent governor of De Montfort University and until recently the chair of the National Deaf Children’s Society. In January 2021 she was awarded the MBE for services to young people.

Jeremy Cartwright, chair of Stoke-on-Trent College, said: “I am delighted that Lisa is joining. There are both challenges and opportunities in further education at the moment, and in the city region, and we know Lisa will bring her significant and unique knowledge, skills and experience to help us make the most of these to benefit Stoke-on-Trent.”

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