The latest bombshell to hit further education in South Warwickshire was revealed to the Herald by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is responsible for the sector in Whitehall.

A spokeswoman said that the recently appointed FE (Further Education) Commissioner, Dr David Collins, assessed Stratford College in May this year.

“This resulted from an assessment by the Skills Funding Agency that the financial health of the college was inadequate,” said the spokeswoman.

“The FE Commissioner identified weaknesses in the governance of the college.”

As a result, Further Education Minister Matthew Hancock, had intervened.

“On this basis, the minister has requested that the college put in place an action plan to address these weaknesses and this is currently being reviewed,” said the spokeswoman.

She said that a summary of the FE Commissioner’s assessment would be published in due course.

Stratford College has around 1,800 full-time and 4,000 part-time students, and more than 400 full-time and part-time staff.

It costs around £13 million a year to run.

However Stratford College—like other further education colleges, including Warwickshire—has been severely hit by a cutback in public funding.

Both colleges have announced job losses—or the prospect of job losses—and in Warwickshire’s case the principal and chief executive, Mariane Cavalli, recently took “temporary leave of absence”.

Warwickshire College told the Herald it could not say, for legal reasons, why Ms Cavalli had taken this leave of absence.

Last autumn, the man who had been the principal of Stratford College for eight years, Martin Penny, resigned suddenly and Nicola Mannock, the vice-principal, became the acting principal.

According to minutes of governors’ meetings earlier this year she has been confirmed as principal.

In a joint statement with acting chairman Ian Robinson yesterday, Mrs Mannock told the Herald that while the FE Commissioner’s report had advised that good progress was being made in delivering the necessary quality and financial improvements, it identified a need to make significant changes to the governance arrangements.

“In response to these serious findings we had no option but to take swift action by changing the college’s governance structure, comprising 12 governors, including myself as principal and two staff and one student governor,” said the statement.

“Strong governance is vital to a college’s success and the changes to the board of governors are being focused on recruiting additional expertise in line with the commissioner’s findings.

“Stratford College has been specifically advised to bring new members to the board from the active business community, and consequently we are welcoming the interest being expressed from this sector.

“Details regarding the new appointments will be announced in September.

“Since being appointed as principal in November 2013, my attention has been focused on developing a completely new management team which has undertaken a major restructuring programme.

This has significantly helped to strengthen our financial position and the latest forecasts show an income surplus over expenditure for the first time in five years.

“Difficult decisions have therefore been taken to invest in the long-term sustainability of the college and to enhance the future development and success of our students.”

This article first appeared in the Herald published on Thursday 10th July. For the latest breaking news in South Warwickshire pick up the paper each week for 60p.