Who We Are

picture of Fircroft College building

Learning to become a better world

We are a calm, supportive residential college, and also a charity, based on the Bristol Road in Selly Oak, Birmingham and easy to get to by train, car, bicycle and bus. Situated in a building that was once the family home of George Cadbury Jnr. the college is enhanced by 6 acres of grounds.

Our Students

We welcome applications from people who were over the age of 19 by 31st August 2023 and living in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall, Coventry and Solihull. If you live outside these areas and you would like to apply for one of our courses, please contact us on 0121 472 0116 or email admissions@fircroft.ac.uk.

Most of our students access our courses for free due to funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority. See our fees and eligibility page.

West Midlands Combined Authority logo.

Our students are often from the most disadvantaged parts of the West Midlands and are people who sometimes have had to face multiple barriers in their lives, including previous challenges with their experience of education. Our courses can help you to gain confidence to get back into the classroom and enhance your life by staying and studying at the college. Take a look at the benefits of being a residential student at Fircroft College, here

Our Courses

Courses we offer include:

  • Personal and social development
  • Functional skills (maths, English, digital);
  • Working and volunteering
  • Courses for people from new communities
  • Green skills and sustainability
  • Courses that are more academic to help people progress into work or higher education.

For more information, take a look at our latest course brochure here.

Our History

We were established in 1909 by George Cadbury Jnr. for his workers, encouraging them to increase their knowledge and skills to help them to meet their potential and pass their learning on to their colleagues.  After his death in 1954, George’s family home and 6 acres of gardens in Selly Oak were transformed into a place of learning and became Fircroft College.  

“We are anxious that it shall be understood that the object of students at the new settlement shall be to return to their work and dignify it, and to help their comrades, not to rise to a superior class, but to raise their class”

George Cadbury Jnr.

Our Ethos

We are inclusive and value diversity in all its forms, having been awarded College of Sanctuary status in February 2021.  We were the first college to declare a climate emergency, with a strong sustainability strategy and ambitious targets, resulting in us winning a Green Gown Award in 2022 and being Green Gown Award finalists in 2023.

As an Investors in People Gold employer, we provide a great work environment for our staff with plenty of benefits and the satisfaction of knowing that every job role helps our students to achieve and progress.

With a strong ethos of social justice, a legacy from the Cadbury family, as a charity we feel it is our purpose to help those who need it, through education, and our values and inclusive societal themes that we work with demonstrate our passion to provide learning to become a better world. 

Meet the Management Team

Melanie Lenehan, Principal and CEO

Mel is Principal and CEO of Fircroft College and has been in post since 2016.  

Previous to this role, Melanie has been in teacher in FE, HE and Adult Education. She has also worked in various leadership roles in a national adult education charity. She was a Patron of the Centenary Commission on Adult Education in 2019. Melanie is passionate about adult education and has led work on education for sustainable development and social justice for many years and is currently studying for a Doctorate in Education with a focus on adult educator’s agency in climate and social justice action. She is an Honorary Fellow of the University of Nottingham and is Chair of the Colleges West Midland’s Sustainable Futures Partnership.  She is also Chair of the Association of Colleges Sustainability and Climate change reference group and is also a trustee of Birmingham Friends of the Earth

Michael Conway-Jones, Vice-Principal

Michael is responsible for the following teams:

  • Curriculum
  • Quality
  • Guidance
  • Student Support
  • Safeguarding
  • Marketing
  • Projects

Michael’s first teaching job was at a seminary in Ghana. He has run a race equality project in Liverpool 8, action research on the regeneration of a housing estate in Sandwell and a £5M Community Education programme for Redditch Borough Council

During his time at Fircroft he has worked on paid consultancy and improvement projects around Professional Dialogue, Community Development, Equality and Diversity, Inclusive Leadership and Social Metrics. Michael is a keen cyclist and helped the college gain Gold as a Cycle Friendly Employer and set up a Cycle Mechanics qualification.

Michael has QTLS status (Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills), is a Fellow of the Society for Education and Training and guest edited their Intuition research supplement. He is a qualified coach, teaches leadership and runs a development session with Fircroft’s middle managers every month. He designed a Foundation Degree in Voluntary Sector Management with Newman University and led a University of Birmingham School of Education Masters module on Curriculum Design in a Global Context.

Michael is Chair of Governors at Shireland Collegiate Academy in Smethwick and a Director of their Multi-Academy Trust of 12 schools.

Stephen Hayden, Head of Finance and Regulatory Compliance

Stephen is the Head of Finance & Regulatory Compliance and has been in post since 2017.

Stephen has previously worked in senior Finance roles in FTSE100 companies, predominantly in the UK Energy sector.    He also has significant experience in the public sector with senior roles at the Forensic Science Service, the Learning & Skills Council, and within Social Housing.

He is an associate member of the Institute of Chartered Management Accountants, and a qualified member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants.

In his role Stephen is responsible for all aspects of Finance including Financial Management and Treasury,  Financial Planning & Strategy, Risk Management, and reporting on Internal Control and Governance.   He is also the Data Protection Officer for the college.

Stephen works closely with the college governors in his finance and compliance work, and is a reporting officer at the following governance boards

  • Governing Body
  • Audit Committee
  • Operations Committee
  • Remuneration Committee (occasional)
Andy Gazey, Head of Business Infrastructure

I have worked in education for the last 6 years, previous to this I worked in the careers sector working with both young people and adults. My background is Management Information and Digital Systems. I have worked in MIS for nearly 20 years with the last 6 diversifying and branching out to wider operational management. I currently lead several key operational areas for the college, these include Estates & Facilities, IT and MIS, Accreditation and Exams. I also lead day to day on the colleges health and safety approach. I am passionate about climate action and I’m proud to co-chair the colleges Green Team.

I have achieved a 2:1 in BSc in Business Management from the University of Wolverhampton as well as completing a Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship from University of Wolverhampton. I am currently IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health) trained as well as being a named first aid staff member for the college.

I look forward to meeting you when you come to college.

Angela Bate, Head of Curriculum

Lee Goodway, Head of Student Experience

Julie Dowell, HR Manager

Penny Shinfield, Marketing Manager

Penny leads on the marketing and communications at the college. She has worked in education and training for over 20 years, working for a global engineering company based in London prior to entering the education sector. Penny’s career includes working in employer/partner engagement and marketing and project management with government departments, Further Education and Higher Education.  Penny’s experience includes managing and working with European funded and Government funded FE and HE projects promoting a wide range of college and university business services, projects and products to SME’s and large organisations.  At Fircroft, she leads on all externally-facing marketing and communications, including promotion of the college to prospective students, referral partners and funding organisations such as the WMCA.

Penny is a Chartered Marketer (CMktr) MCIM and she has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wolverhampton.  She is passionate about demonstrating the power of education to students and businesses, and how it can improve both individual and economic prospects.