New College Swindon Principal and Chief Executive, Carole Kitching, has announced her retirement from the role at the end of the academic year after five years with the college.
Carole has worked in Further Education and Skills for twenty-six years, and as Principal for the past fifteen, in six colleges, taking the helm at New College in 2018. She is a graduate of the University of St Andrews and her forty-year teaching career has also seen her running her own international language school and recruitment businesses and writing textbooks.
She is passionate about the life changing difference colleges make and always regards herself primarily as an educator. Although she is retiring from full-time college leadership, Carole is planning to stay actively involved in the sector in other capacities, with more time to contribute in different ways in areas that matter most to her.
Carole said: “Since joining back in 2018, I am proud the college has supported over 45,000 learners, including my own daughter, to succeed and fulfil their potential. It has been a privilege to work alongside so many committed professionals and I thank them for their support and dedication in making everything we do possible.”
In August 2020, Carole oversaw New College’s merger, over fifteen years in the making, with Swindon College. This replaced confusing competition and duplication of courses with a single access point to a broad curriculum meeting local needs.
Carole has positioned the college as an important civic institution offering a mutually supportive ‘family’ of specialisms covering academic 14-16 and sixth form, technical, professional and trade teaching and apprenticeships for adults and young people, community learning, basic skills and leisure classes. There is also a fast-growing range of degrees and higher technical qualifications which has now won New College and its Swindon and Wiltshire Institute of Technology official University Centre recognition. Course innovation has also flourished with recent diverse introductions covering: T-Levels, e-sports, cyber security, VR healthcare, and training for green jobs
The College successfully has attracted more than £25 million of investment in new facilities since merger including a state-of-the-art T-Level Hub pioneering the provision in Swindon and Wiltshire, the Swindon and Wiltshire Institute of Technology, the SWITCH health initiative, and a new Animal Management Centre.
Carole said: “We’re certainly far more than a big school, or sixth form college. Visitors are amazed when they see our facilities and how much is happening. With so many opportunities to pursue there’s no need to travel to get where you want to go in life.”
Partnership working has been a priority for Carole to ensure the college’s local economic impact is maximised. She has been a board member on the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership and chairs its Talent and Skills sub-group. She has also worked on key local initiatives such as the Town’s Board and the Honda taskforce and built strong relationships with local representatives, groups & businesses.
Speaking of the significant challenge of steering the newly-merged college through the pandemic, Carole said: “Being in College every day though lockdowns was hard, but we kept teaching and support going throughout making sure we maintained some normality for students through their studies, that they got their qualifications, and had a sense of purpose about their future.”
Some of the impacts are still being seen but our students and staff are always so amazingly resilient. Despite all the challenges, the college has still seen steady, ongoing improvement although it’s taken a bit longer to get to where we need to be. Staff have demonstrated their professional pride and redoubled their efforts which has had a visible and positive impact. There is a sense of real energy and momentum which will position the college well for reinspection. Also what we learnt and made possible through the pandemic is now helping shape what future learning and ways of working will look like at the college.
Martin Wyn Griffith, Chair of Governors at New College Swindon, said: “I thank Carole for all she has done for New College. Her passion for Further Education is clear and the experience, skills and knowledge she has brought to the role have made a hugely positive impact. Her leadership leaves behind a legacy to be proud of and one on which we will build. I wish her well in her retirement and future plans.”
Arrangements for a smooth succession were put into place after governors were informed of Carole’s decision last year. A recruitment process for the appointment of a new permanent Principal and Chief Executive will take place during the autumn term.
Governors are pleased to announce that Leah Palmer, New College’s current Deputy Principal Curriculum & Learners, will be appointed as Interim Principal and Chief Executive. Leah joined New College last October having spent the previous twelve years working in two Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ rated colleges.
Carole said: “Having worked closely with Leah this year I know that the college will be in safe hands. At governors’ request I will be staying on till December to support Leah over the Autumn term and advise the Corporation on the search process for my successor.
“I know New College will always be ambitious to improve as it seeks to consolidate and build on what we’ve achieved. There are lots of exciting developments on the horizon that will help even more students and businesses to thrive. The college is well-placed for a new leader to take over the baton and make their mark serving a fantastic region with so much potential.”