The principal of City College, Peterborough, Dr Pat Carrington and two of her colleagues have been placed on ‘gardening leave’ whilst allegations against all three are investigated.
Her colleagues have been named as Julie Bennett, head of service college operations, and business operations manager Sue Watsham.
The college is based in Brook Street, Peterborough, and comes within the remit of the city council whose executive director, place and economy, Adrian Chapman told council and college employees of the investigation.
Off work ‘until further notice’
In an email sent across his workforce, Mr Chapman said all three “will be away from their workplace until further notice”.
He emphasised to staff that “it is very important that, during their absence, you do not make contact with them for any reason.
“Normal college business will continue, and I’ll be able to announce interim management arrangements in due course”.
Mr Chapman said he was inviting all college staff to an “in person” meeting which he is hopeful of arranging for early next week.
“Details of this will follow as soon as possible, and I apologise in advance for the short notice” he wrote.
“I appreciate this news will be unsettling for many of you, but please be absolutely assured that both I and the city council will always act in the very best interests of the college, our staff and our learners.”
Mr Chapman told staff: “I will be back in touch in the coming days – in the meantime, thank you for all you do for our city.”
College founded as far back as 1944
City College Peterborough was founded in 1944 and has been providing adult learning ever since.
Today it has expanded its offering to include college courses, apprenticeships, and workplace training for the Peterborough community.
Originally known as the Peterborough Adult Institute, the college changed its name in 1970 to become the Peterborough College of Adult Education. At the same time the college found its new home at Brook Street, in the heart of Peterborough.
In 2010, it became City College Peterborough – as we know it today.
A city council spokesperson said tonight: “As a result of the council receiving some allegations in relation to City College Peterborough, executive principal Pat Carrington and two further senior managers at the college will be away from the workplace until further notice.
“An independent investigation will now commence and as a result we are unable to comment further.
“Unfortunately, we can’t offer any more information at this time.”
City College is a registered charity and has around 120 employees who offer training to 16- to 19-year-olds, adult education courses like English for speakers of other languages, and apprenticeships.
The most recent Ofsted inspection report was six years ago when Dr Carrington and her leadership team were praised for maintaining “the good quality of education and training reported in your last inspection.
“You still maintain a culture of high expectations and have tackled former weaknesses in relation to outcomes for apprentices well. College leaders support teachers exceptionally well. Combined with the effective performance management of staff at all levels, this helps underpin ongoing improvement.”
Ofsted rated the college as ‘good’ but according to a whistleblower who has been in touch with CambsNews a preliminary determination more recently of “unsatisfactory” has been appealed by the college and so therefore no report has yet been published.
The whistleblower said it was commonly believed an appeal has been lodged disputing the college the college’s recent Ofsted inspection.
City College Foundation charity
The investigation by the city council is also expected to consider the City College Foundation charity which was set up in 2014 but remained inactive until April 2016 when funds were transferred from City College Peterborough ‘Activities and Amenities’ account.
This was an historic account built up from non-funded college activities. In August 2015 City College Peterborough took over the management of the Peterborough Day Opportunities Service providing day and employment support to adults under 65 with a disability.
Part of the development plan for Day Opportunities, explained the charity in its annual report, was to grow “exciting and new supported micro enterprises into self-sustaining social enterprises which will be managed through the charity”.
September 2020 saw the incorporation of a wholly owned trading subsidiary named City Culture Peterborough Ltd which was created in order for the charity to take on responsibility for running cultural, heritage and library services on behalf of Peterborough City Council. Dr Carrington took on the role of chief executive.
City Culture Peterborough Limited became responsible for the operational management of 10 libraries, archives, the Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery, Flag Fen Archaeology Park, and the Key Theatre within Peterborough until 31 March 2022.
All activities of the company were transferred out at this date and the company has not traded since.
City Culture Peterborough is a separate company limited by shares where the charity is the sole shareholder. The three directors of the company are also trustees of the charity.
Annual accounts for the period ended March 30, 2022, showed the college has receiving over £3.7 million in income from donations and other charitable activities. Its fund balance at the end of that year was close to £5m.
None of those referred to in the city council’s email have spoken publicly about the reasons for the investigation.
Dr Carrington, who on her LinkedIn profile describes herself as both executive principal at City College and also as assistant director employment and skills at the city council, joined the college in 2006.
She was initially vice principal but became principal and head of service in 2011 before becoming executive principal in 2017.
Since 2017, Dr Carrington has served as the voluntary chair of Holex, a network of over 120 adult and community learning providers.
MBE awarded for services to further education
She was awarded the MBE in 2017 for her services to further education and to the community in Peterborough.
“It was totally unexpected,” she said at the time.
Dr Carrington told the Peterborough Telegraph: “Since coming into the role six years ago, one of the things I have tried to do is be as entrepreneurial as possible, and to cater for local people and the local community.”
She is also a member of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Employment and Skills Board.
Business operations manager Sue Watsham is the second senior figure at City College to be under investigation.
She has worked at the college for just over year and her LinkedIn profile describes her as an “experienced fundraising manager within the charity sector, successful track record in event and venue management”.
She also she has an “in depth knowledge of bid writing and development work within the charity and corporate sectors with experience in adult education, community development and communications and marketing”.
The third staff member under investigation is head of service college operations Julie Bennett, and part of the senior leadership team.
None of those involved in the investigation have responded to media requests and City College has referred all requests to the city council.
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