Wiltshire College has appointed an acting principal after telling its staff that principal Di Dale is taking time off and won’t be back again this term.

But the college is denying that she has resigned her £130,000 a year post, although vice principal Ben Allen stopped short of saying that she will be back again next term.

Former Swindon College executive director Amanda Burnside has been appointed acting principal. Appointing a vice principal is a course of action only usually undertaken when a principal leaves.

On Monday an internal memo sent to staff at the colleges four sites in Trowbridge, Lackham, Chippenham and Salisbury, from chairman of governors Helen Birchenough said: “Di Dale will not be returning to the college this term, I have asked Amanda Burnside, VP student experience, to take on the role of acting principal.”

The move comes after an Ofsted inspection two weeks ago. The inspector’s report will not be published for at least another three weeks but it is understood that the college has shown no improvement on its previous two Ofsteds, which both rated the college as satisfactory.

The Ofsted structure has been changed since the last visit two years ago and a similar grading would now rank it as requiring improvement.

Mrs Burnside joined the college three months ago from Swindon College, which has been rated as outstanding by Ofsted.

Mr Allen said he could not comment on whether Mrs Dale, who has been at the college for almost eight years, is on gardening leave, as suggested by several members of staff contacting the press yesterday and today.

Of the memo sent out yesterday he said: “It is pretty standard business practice to let staff know, when someone is going to be away, that the college has leadership. The staff need to know who is in charge.

“Amanda has extensive experience in further education and is a safe pair of hands.”

He could not say whether Mrs Dale, who lives near Bradford on Avon, has resigned or that a decision has been taken, or is about to be taken on her future.

When asked if she would return after the Easter break he said: “I can’t comment.”

Last year the college was warned by Ofsted over low standards of achievement after just 32 per cent of students at Key Stage 5 met the academic minimum standard, although the college said the Ofsted conclusions were drawn from a low number of student results.

In 2012 members of the staff union ATL passed a vote of no confidence in the senior management team.