Further education has been told to clean up its act. Phil Baty reports
The board of the Association of Colleges has stood down following a resounding vote of no confidence from college principals.
The AoC board met principals last week with the intention of standing firm in the face of calls for it to quit over its handling of the resignation of AoC chief executive Roger Ward.
But the meeting showed that about 70 per cent of principals wanted the board to stand down. After a weekend of discussions, the board decided this week it had no option but to go.
Colin Flint, principal of Solihull College, led the protests. He said: "The board has finally made the right decision. It has given a strong message to the sector that to go forward, there is a need for genuine unity."
The meeting, held in Birmingham after the Further Education Funding Council's annual conference, was convened after more than 150 principals signed a letter calling for the board to go.
Principals were furious that the board had curtailed an independent investigation into allegations of impropriety against Mr Ward.
Mr Ward had been allowed to resign with a pay-off despite the unresolved allegations and despite his admission that he had given incorrect information to a House of Commons select committee.
On the eve of last week's meeting, the board insisted that the criticism was from a vocal minority and it maintained "widespread support". Only a democratic emergency general meeting, with a full vote from its 450 member colleges, could force resignations, it said.
But the meeting, attended by over 300 principals, showed the full extent of anger. A straw poll of opinion found that only about 30 per cent of principals supported the board's position.
It is understood that the board decided to stand down only after persuasion from AoC chairman James Scrimshaw, who had made it clear earlier that he believed that the AoC's position was untenable without full, broad support from the whole sector.
Mr Flint paid tribute to Mr Scrimshaw. "It seems to me that Jim Scrimshaw has shown the right kind of strong leadership in very difficult circumstances to achieve this outcome."
Under its legal contracts, the board cannot stand down until elections are arranged, said Mr Scrimshaw, "in no later than two months". It is expected that Mr Scrimshaw, and the majority of board members, will stand for reelection.
MEMBERS OF THE BOARD:
James Scrimshaw (top), Graham Baskerville (right), Pat Morgan-Webb (left)
Association of Colleges board
Chairman: James Scrimshaw
chair of governors, Barking College
Vice-chair: Graham Baskerville, principal, Chippenham College
Nick Brown, principal, Oldham Sixth Form College
Hilary Cowell, principal, NESCOT
Ray Denison, chair of governors, Barnsley College
John Guy, principal, Farnborough Sixth Form College
Michael Blagden, principal, Southgate College
Mike Clegg, principal, Preston College
Colin Daniels, chair of governors, Warrington Collegiate Institute
Huw Evans, principal, Llandrillo College
Barry Hawley, chair of governors, New College, Durham
David Kissman, chair of governors, Broxtowe College
Pat Morgan-Webb, principal, Clarendon College of FE
Michael Tobbell, chair of governors, Notre Dame Sixth Form College
David Mason, principal, Amersham and Wycombe College
Howard Phelps, chair of governors, Cirencester College
Pam Taylor, chair of governors, Barton Peveril College
Malcolm Wharton, principal,Hartpury College