June 14, 2024

Weston College investigated for financial mismanagement

The probe founding ‘funding irregularities’ which included high remuneration packages to the retired ex-principal, Sir Paul Phillips, which were not disclosed as required.

Phillips was England’s highest paid college principal, and in 2022 earned a basic salary of 9.6 times more than the median pay of his full-time staff, as uncovered by FE Week.

Financial statements from the school show he was paid £357,000 in 2021, and £362,000 in 2022, when he was also awarded an honorary knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Staff at the college told the Mercury: “This is a huge and embarrassing fall from grace for our local college, led by a man that commanded the highest college principal salary at the country while overseeing, in the counter fraud auditors words, failures of financial management and controls.”

The government inspection saw Weston College handed a financial Notice to Improve (NTI), which confirmed the institution is now in intervention.

Full details of the NTI can be found on the UK Government website.

In response, Jacqui Ford, Weston College’s current Interim Principal and Chief Executive, affirmed the college will continue to operate as normal, and quality of teaching will not be impacted as the college works to improve upon the matters set out in the notice.

“The college is cooperating with the Department for Education and the Further Education Commissioner’s team on the matters identified in a Financial Notice to Improve issued to the college on Friday, May 17, and to implement the conditions set out in that notice within as short a period of time as possible,” Ms Ford said.

“In the meantime, the college is continuing to operate normally in serving our students, communities and businesses and we’d like to thank our staff for their hard work and professionalism at this time.

“The Financial Notice to Improve was issued following the ESFA’s investigation into historical funding irregularities at Weston College that found failures of management and controls, including high remuneration packages to the retired ex-principal, and failure to disclose such details as required through the ESFA’s College Accounts direction.

“The Notice to Improve does not in any way relate to the quality of teaching at the College, nor does it relate to or impact the experience of our students.

“The Further Education Commissioner has assigned Tim Jackson, an FE Advisory at the Commissioner’s Office, to work with the college and lead its governing body during this time and the board unanimously elected him to this position.

“He has been in communication with the board and in the college meeting staff, and also with Pat Jones, our new incoming Principal.”

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