‘We are ambitious for this college’

Herald Deputy Editor Chris Smith talks to the new leadership team at Stratford-upon-Avon College about their pledges to turn its fortunes around

Lindsey Stewart and John Callaghan, Solihull College deputy principal and principal, pictured with Stratford College’s outgoing interim principal and chief executive Andrew Cropley.

UNIVERSITY degrees will soon be offered by Stratford-upon-Avon College in a remarkable turnaround of its fortunes.

There will also be a major refurbishment of the campus, computer systems will be upgraded, and a raft of other new courses that students living in Stratford currently have to travel to other colleges for are also being considered.

These are among the pledges from the new management team that is preparing to take over the running of the college.

Lindsey Stewart is the new head of the college following the completion of Solihull College and University Centre’s merger with Stratford. She is Solihull’s deputy principal.

And speaking exclusively to the Herald, Mrs Stewart painted a positive picture for the future of Stratford College following months of turmoil.

“I’m optimistic about what we can achieve as a college,” she said.

“The previous regime took their optimism into their finances and their budgeting, so they assumed that the things they wanted to happen would happen.

“We have a different approach, we are very cautious in terms of the finances and the budgeting, if our ambitions come to fruition we will resource the curriculum accordingly, but if you just assume that you are going to pick up 1,000 international students and build that into your financial plans, that is a recipe for disaster.

“So there’s a lot of optimism, a lot of faith in the staff here, and what they do, but on the other hand we’re very cautious in terms of financial planning, and building a model we know we are absolutely going to achieve.

“Financially, that’s what the bank needs, that’s what the ESFA (Education Skills Funding Agency), our funders, need, and that’s what the staff need, they need some stability here.”

Solihull College was chosen as the merger partner back in June, just four months after the sacking of Nicola Mannock as principal amid allegations about her management of the college that is now known to have been driven by a cash crisis.

The Herald had previously reported on the sudden and unexplained departures of key staff, concerns from students, and the cancellation of courses. Fast forward ten months and the new owners appear to have ticked all the boxes on Stratford’s vision document that was drawn up for potential suitors.

“We are ambitious for this college,” added Mrs Stewart.

“We want to have degrees in history and English up and running very soon, focusing on the Shakespeare connection, we want to reflect degrees into everything we do really.

“At the moment we have many students who want to stay on at the college after two years doing say a performance arts or dance, and actually the staff have been turning them away because they have not got the appropriate curriculum.

“The other thing we want to do is offer things that meet the needs of the wider Stratford community, not just for 16- to 18-year-olds but for a whole range of people.

“We’ve got detailed analysis of what Stratford students go to other colleges to do that we don’t offer here, so we are reviewing that data very carefully and looking to see whether it is possible to put those courses on.”

To read the new management’s views on what went wrong at Stratford College, talk of a relocation away from The Willows, its accommodation block, the return of international students, and the college’s recent Ofsted rating of ‘requires improvement’ CLICK HERE

Download a copy of the current edition of the Herald HERE to read our exclusive interview with outgoing interim principal Andrew Cropley, who has steered the college to the merger.