Varndean College appoints its first female Principal

March 06, 2020

Donna-Marie Janson

Varndean College, Brighton has appointed a new Principal and CEO to start in September following the upcoming retirement of Dr Phillip Harland, after 14 years in post. Donna-Marie Janson will take over as the establishment’s eighth Principal, and the first female Principal in its history, since it was founded back in 1884. Indeed, she will be the first ever female Principal of a sixth form college in Brighton and Hove.

Donna-Marie, who is currently the Vice Principal at Varndean, has over 20 years’ experience as a teacher and leader in both sixth form colleges and secondary schools in Sussex and Hampshire. She has been a senior leader at Varndean College for the past two years and landed the role from a prestigious pool of external candidates.

Of her imminent position she says, “I am absolutely thrilled to become the next Principal of Varndean College and to build on the excellent successes the College has already had. I will give my best to ensure that we remain the very special place we are, both as a learning environment and as a workplace. Varndean is truly unique; we have an outstanding academic track record, as well as a real community ethos where students thrive and where we put student happiness at the heart of everything we do. It is a very exciting time to become Principal, with the opening of our new STEM centre, as well as with our growing student body and outstanding results.

Philip Harland, current Principal said “It has been an honour and a privilege to be the Principal of Varndean College. The original School was founded in 1884 in York Place and moved to its current location in 1937, becoming a Sixth Form College in 1975. We ‘Varndeanians’ have a long tradition of providing a first-class education to the youth of our City and in being a community in which all flourish. I was appointed in 2006 as the seventh Headteacher/Principal of this wonderful institution and I can honestly say that it has been everything I had hoped for; wonderful staff, wonderful students and a truly unique environment and location.

I look forward to my retirement with mixed emotions. I will miss the challenges a leadership role provides, I will miss the joy of watching young people exceed their own expectations and I will miss the sense of community and the feeling that we are collectively engaged in work that matters - it matters because what we do changes lives.

I will leave Varndean College in the knowledge that its place is secure and that the new Principal, Donna-Marie, will ensure that the value Varndean College adds to our 16-19 year olds, our adult students and international students will continue into the future. It has been my privilege to work with Donna-Marie for two years; she has shown great focus on the quality of the student experience, our inclusive agenda, our desire to address inequality and the success of students and the institution. Donna-Marie will be well supported by our Governors who give of their time selflessly. I wish Donna-Marie, Varndean College its staff and students well for the future.”

For further information, please contact:

Jackie Francis, Marketing Manager, 01273 546611,