Weston College finally appoints permanent principal

Bedford College Group deputy CEO Pat Jones will lead Weston College from July

Bedford College Group deputy CEO Pat Jones will lead Weston College from July

25 Apr 2024, 22:30

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Weston College has appointed a new principal who will assume office 21 months after the post was first advertised. 

Pat Jones, currently deputy chief executive for finance at Bedford College Group, will lead the college from July following multiple failed attempts by Weston’s governors to appoint a permanent successor to Paul Phillips.

“I am delighted to be joining Weston College as their new principal and CEO at this exciting time,” Jones said.

“Weston has achieved so much, and I look forward to leading the dedicated and talented team, building upon the many successes.”

Weston College, in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset, has been led by acting principal Jacqui Ford since the retirement of England’s then-highest-paid college chief executive Paul Phillips in the summer of 2023.

Ford’s instalment as interim followed multiple failed attempts by the college’s governors to appoint a permanent successor. Weston had offered the role to Cornwall College Group deputy principal Kate Wills but then mysteriously withdrew the offer.

Phillips’ retirement wasn’t clear-cut to begin with.

Weston’s board had told college staff that Phillips would be kept on in an “absolutely key” role as “president” last year, but this was later scrapped after sector criticism. Phillips’ son, Joe Phillips, was Ford’s de-facto deputy as the college’s chief operating officer, but was one of two other college senior managers to have left their roles since September.

New boss Jones is credited with “playing a critical role” in the merger of Tresham College and Bedford College in 2017, and securing over £43 million in successful bids for funding according to Bedford College Group’s website.

She is working towards a doctorate in further education financial leadership from the University of Oxford with a thesis titled, ‘Sustainable financial health: Is it possible for colleges to maintain good financial health, free of intervention?’ The work was one of the first 11 funded research projects run by the joint Association of Colleges and NCFE ‘research further’ programme.

FE Commissioner Shelagh Legrave appointed Jones as one of two national leaders of further education financial specialists in 2022.

Andrew Leighton-Price, Weston College chair of governors, said: “Pat has held a distinguished career in education of over 20 years and is an innovative national leader of further education.

“More importantly she has the inclusive learning ethos that we champion so strongly here at Weston, with experience of working across all our learner groups.

“Combining this with her impressive financial acumen as a global management accountant, and strong background in community and employer partnerships, made Pat a very obvious choice, in what was already a strong field of candidates, from a diverse range of backgrounds.”

Applications to become Weston College’s £120,000-a-year deputy principal closed on Monday.

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