Brooklands College facing 'high-risk challenges'

FE commissioner's team has published its report on Brooklands College, which is at the centre of an ESFA investigation

The FE commissioner's team has published its report on Brooklands College

Brooklands College has been placed into supervised college status, following a report by the further education commissioner.

The Surrey college, which is currently the subject of an Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) investigation into its relationship with one of its main subcontractors, is facing "multiple, difficult and high-risk challenges", according to the commissioner's report, published this morning. 

These, it says, are "impacting on the college’s future success and sustainability". "The ESFA investigation into one of the college’s main sub-contractors, SCL Security, and the possible contingent liability is the most substantial risk facing the college," the report adds.


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Brooklands College challenges

In March, it was announced that principal Gail Walker had stepped down “as part of her long-term personal plan”, with Christine Ricketts taking on the role of principal and Shereen Sameresinghe becoming CEO.

Earlier this month, Andrew Baird was appointed chair of governors, replacing Terry Lazenby in the role on an interim basis.

According to the report by FE commissioner Richard Atkins (pictured), the governing body’s response to the identified risk "has not been adequate". "Governors have not considered or developed a mitigation plan should the ESFA, SCL investigation impact on both the finances and the reputation of the college," it says.

The college's overall financial position is also a focus of the commissioner's report. It concludes that the under-used Weybridge campus requires "major investment and resizing to meet future needs".

 Drop in enrolments

There has been a rapid decrease in the college's turnover during recent years, largely due to a decrease in 16- to 19 year-old enrolments of around 25 per cent, coupled with the recent impact of the introduction of the apprenticeship levy. 

"The volume of apprenticeship sub-contracting declined in 2017-18 and this contributed to the reduction in the college’s income from 2016-17 to 2017-18," the report states. "A 30 per cent decline in apprenticeship starts was seen in 2017-18 in line with national trends. This has put severe pressure on the college’s financial performance and position."

According to the commissioner, college governors need to urgently consider what mitigating actions may be necessary depending on the outcome of the ESFA investigation, and take expert advice on managing this process.

In response, Mr Baird said: “The report makes a number of important recommendations and the college is addressing these as a matter of urgency. The report rightly recognises the hard work of staff and their pride in its successes, including the results of the latest Ofsted inspection.

“The inspection team also highlighted how the students it interviewed were very positive about the supportive and helpful staff who are ‘always willing to help them’, the skills they are gaining at college and the friendly atmosphere here.”

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