Monday, February 1, 2016

News: Rotherham principal bows out as colleges merge

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John Connolly, previously the principal of North Notts College is the new chief executive of RNN Group, the new organisation that combines the Worksop college with Rotherham College of Arts and Technology.

The principal and chief executive of Rotherham College, Gill Alton, has moved back to become chief executive of the Grimsby Institute, where she has previously held the position of vice principal.

The approved merger proposals, which have been initiated from today, have been described as "a positive and deliberate strategy to deliver a stronger local skills offer in a climate when the stability of individual colleges may be challenged in the future."

Combined as the RNN Group, all the campuses will remain and retain their existing local identities. Rotherham College has facilities in Rotherham town centre and Dinnington whilst North Notts has facilities in Worksop and Retford. A new arm, RNN Training, is being created to enhance further the college's work with hundreds of employers on training and apprenticeships.

Connolly (pictured) joined North Notts College as deputy chief executive in 1999 after an early career in industry, latterly as finance director in the construction and property sector.

Finance will be a key issue for the new group with falling numbers of 16–18 year old students, potentially risking the range of courses the colleges can offer, and projected public funding cuts for at least the next three years, potentially reducing capacity. Post-16 education and training across the Sheffield city region is under review as the Government begins a restructuring of the further education sector leading to "fewer, larger, more resilient and efficient providers."

John Connolly, chief executive of RNN Group, said: "This is a vital time for Rotherham and South Yorkshire, with business growth and economic renewal to be secured. The RNN Group will develop further the work of the two colleges to support employers develop the skilled workforce they need, and provide the link so that local people get the training they need to step confidently into career opportunities, bringing benefit to our local communities."
Alton has spent five years as principal and chief executive at Rotherham College and there has been a 14% point improvement in student success rates since 2009 – in practical terms this means over 600 more students each year now pass their major course. Around £20m has been invested in facilities and equipment for students since 2010 across the campuses and plans are pushing ahead for a £12m Higher Education (HE) campus to be built in Rotherham town centre.

Ken Barrass, chair of the college's governors, said: "Gill has led efforts to shape plans for Rotherham's new higher education and skills centre planned for Doncaster Gate, which is supported by over 200 businesses and championed by Rotherham's commissioners, councillors and others. It is another "game-changer" for the town, increasing opportunities for more local people to gain the higher level skills which will catch us up with the rest of the country and bring more prosperity.

"We hope the Higher Education Centre will prove an inspiration for many, and that has also been a key part of how Gill has led the college, encouraging and providing resources for students and staff to really push the boundaries."

Gill (pictured) said: "I have loved every minute of my time in Rotherham. It is a fantastic town with brilliant people who deserve the best. I'm humbled by some very nice things said about my time here but the people who have really made the changes at the college have been its skilled, passionate, dedicated staff, and our wonderful students who embrace every challenge and opportunity that arises."

RNN Group website

Images: North Notts College / Rotherham College

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