Principal retires as concerns are raised over future of Harrogate College

Debra Forsythe-Conroy.

A Yorkshire college group has confirmed that the principal of one of its schools has retired as concerns are raised over its future.

A source linked to Harrogate College said Debra Forsythe-Conroy indicated she would be retiring only to “be removed from her post the same day”, with no information on who would be taking on her role.

The source said staff were also told an announcement would be made this week clarifying whether the college was to be sold off from Hull College Group in the wake of a damning report released last February, which exposed a £10m deficit over four years.

However, they said that this did not materialise and “no other college has shown interest in taking over Harrogate College as a partner, leaving staff even more worried about their security of tenure and the future for their students”.

The source added: “Staff have been told that redundancies are being considered - they may have to reapply for existing jobs - and that they will get further information ‘in March’.”

A spokesman for the group confirmed that Ms Forsythe-Conroy had decided to retire from the college sector to “explore new opportunities” and thanked her for her leadership and commitment.

He said: “The recruitment process has already been put in place to recruit this position on an interim basis, with the current group senior leadership team overseeing the management of Harrogate College to ensure the student experience remains as strong as ever.

“The group can confirm that in November 2017, a decision for Harrogate College to leave the Hull College Group had been considered by the corporation. However, due to the protocols and regulatory requirements now involved in this proposal, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the situation at this stage.”

The spokesman added that the college group was entering a ‘fresh start’ recovery plan following the direction of the FE Commissioner, and Harrogate College will remain within the group throughout this process.

He said: “A key element of this recovery plan is a group restructure. The process mapping has been carried out in full consultation with staff in an effort to create an outstanding college that is fit for purpose, in an honest and transparent manner.”

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