Dr Collins lays the blame for this inadequacy squarely with the board of governors.

“Most of the existing board members were present during the period in which the college was running up significant deficits and failed to challenge adequately the then management team on its performance,” he declares.

But a former chairman of the college governors called the report “unfair”.

Cllr Tony Jefferson, chairman from December last year until earlier this summer, told the Herald: “It is unbalanced and has destabilised the governance of Stratford College because it has led to the resignation of governors.

“It has also undermined the turn-round process that was under way. The finances were about to come right and the feedback we had was ‘keep going’. ”

Dr Collins’s blunt assessment follows the sudden resignation last October of principal Martin Penny, after eight years in the job following a highly critical Ofsted report.

Mr Penny was succeeded by his deputy, Nicola Mannock, initially on an interim basis.

Earlier this year, Mrs Mannock was confirmed in the post in a shoo-in that involved no other candidates.

As a result, some governors resigned. Although changes have taken place since the commissioner visited the college in May, Dr Collins’s assessment of the establishment spares no-one’s blushes.

After criticising the board for appointing Mrs Mannock without a competitive process, and for other procedural arrangements, Dr Collins says: “The board needs new membership drawn in particular from the active business community.

“Clerking arrangements are expensive and the service currently offered is not appropriate to a modern high performing board.”

His concerns include:

  • There was no appraisal of governor performance;
  • A quality improvement plan for governance drawn up last year had neither been implemented nor reviewed;
  • Governor training was minimal;
  • There was no “dashboard” of performance indicators to enable the board to review the college’s performance against its peers.

However, Dr Collins noted that over the past year the new management team was beginning to tackle the college’s “not inconsiderable problems”.

He says: “Apart from the obvious financial difficulties, there has been insufficient attention to quality improvement within the institution and relationships with other organisations have also been largely neglected.

The new principal is addressing these issues with enthusiasm and flair and engendered the support of staff and stakeholders alike.

“There is a very positive response from both within and outside the college to what has recently been achieved and to the transparent and open way that now characterises its leadership and management.”

But he adds: “The scale of the task should not be underestimated.

“The question still remains as to whether Stratford College has an independent long-term future. Although the new management team is doing the right things it is not yet clear that they are enough to safeguard the future of an organisation with less than £14 million of funding.

“The success rates for 2013-14, and the enrolment figures for September 2014, will be important indicators as to the likelihood of the college maintaining an independent future.”

In conclusion, Dr Collins says: “There is still a question mark over the long-term viability of the college as an independent institution. The situation will be clearer in the autumn when a monitoring visit by the commissioner will consider whether the existing team can deliver improvements in quality and budgets without further assistance.”

Mrs Mannock greeted Dr Collins’s report with an upbeat statement that highlighted the college’s record A-level results and argued that the future was bright.

“For the first time in five years we will be looking at a small surplus.

“Three hundred and fifty staff and 6,000 students have now got a future.”

She said: “We’re in the driving seat and we’re in the fast lane, focusing on our students’ success and working with local employers to generate economic growth.”

This article first appeared in the Herald on Thursday 21st August. For the latest South Warwickshire news pick up the paper each week for 60p.