Stoke college pair sacked

January 3, 1997

The director of a college rocked by allegations of bullying and financial mismanagement has been sacked.

Neil Preston, director of Stoke-on-Trent College, and Helen Chandler, director of marketing, were dismissed without notice last week after ten hours of governors' meetings.

Mr Preston, 46, who was earning about Pounds 90,000 a year and Mrs Chandler forfeited their salaries and cars this week. Their dismissal comes as auditors investigate an Pounds 8 million debt at the college, which faces more than 150 redundancies.

A special committee of governors was set up this autumn after a survey by lecturers' union Natfhe made allegations of bul-lying.

Mr Preston and Mrs Chandler both took sick-leave on full pay in September, claiming to be suffering from stress. They were later discovered to be running a pub - the Dymock Arms in Penley, Clwyd.

Kevin Farrell, chairman of the college corporation, said this had formed part of the special committee's report.

He said the problems at Stoke had raised fundamental questions about management of the further education sector, which had been forced to cope with independence much more quickly than higher education institutions.

He called for better information systems and a "more rational and rigorous funding model" to end the pressure on colleges to grow beyond their means.

"The interface between governors and the college as the executive is critical," he said.

A college spokeswoman said neither Mr Preston nor Mrs Chandler had been in contact since their dismissal.

"The governors have taken the most serious action they could to dismiss them without notice. Most of the staff and students will feel it was the right thing to do," she said.

An independent inquiry into governance and management, set up at the instigation of the governors and the Further Education Funding Council for England, is expected to report later this month.

A recovery plan also has to be submitted to the FEFCE by the middle of January explaining how the council will resolve its financial difficulties. It will include a thorough review of senior management, including the appointment of a new chief executive.

Mr Preston, who studied hotel and catering management at Surrey University and ran a hotel for three years, moved to Stoke from Amersham & Wycombe College in 1993.

Mrs Chandler, his deputy at Amersham, followed him in 1994. Neither was available for comment.

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