Area reviews: Colleges receive £5.5m in transition grants

Hundreds of thousands of pounds given to fund preparations for mergers which have fallen through, new Education and Skills Funding Agency document reveals

Stephen Exley

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Colleges have been awarded transition grants worth £5.5 million to support plans for mergers, academy conversion and other structural changes, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has revealed.

A document published by the ESFA lists all grants awarded to support “any significant change resulting from a further education area review”.

It reveals that hundreds of thousands of pounds has been spent on proposed mergers that have since collapsed.

“The grants are to ensure colleges can access the best change-management skills and have the capacity to make the changes at the pace required,” a statement published alongside the figures said. The final 15 area review reports were published last week.

Abandoned mergers

A total of 83 grants were awarded by the end of May. The biggest individual grant listed was £200,000 to fund work on the creation of a single Cheshire college, involving Warrington, Mid Cheshire, South Cheshire and West Cheshire colleges. Since then, just South Cheshire and West Cheshire colleges have merged. 

In total, 31 of the grants were worth £100,000 or more.

Several of the grants relate to projects that have since been abandoned, including proposed mergers between: Havering and Barking and Dagenham colleges (£100,000); South Staffordshire and Walsall colleges (£100,000); Bury College and the University of Bolton (£100,000); City Lit and Kensington and Chelsea College (£100,000); and Hartlepool and Hartlepool Sixth Form colleges (£49,500).

'Wasted' money

The University and College Union's head of FE, Andrew Harden, said: “The area reviews were created by a government determined to reduce the number of colleges and therefore narrow people’s options. Rather predictably we have seen a number of these mergers collapse and hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money that could have been spent on education being wasted. The government should now focus efforts on properly supporting colleges to deliver for local people and give them the best chance of fulfilling their potential.”

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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