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College in charity merger is to be added to area review, BIS confirms

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A cash-strapped sixth-form college that will be taken over by a charity next month is to be scrutinised in one of the first area reviews, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) has confirmed.

Despite not initially having being included in the Solent area review, Totton College will be looked at alongside the seven FE and six sixth-form colleges originally earmarked, Bis told TES.

The first meeting of the Solent local steering group, to be chaired by FE commissioner David Collins, will take place on 5 November.

In June, Totton College announced plans to merge with national crime prevention charity Nacro in order to address its "growing financial challenges". It had previously been given a financial notice to improve by the Education Funding Agency. Joshua Coleman, Nacro's director of education, insisted that the charity had no plans to bring offenders from outside the area to attend the college, and would be taking on a £2 million commercial loan as part of the deal.

However Totton will only be considered as part of the "context of all local education provision for 16-19 year olds and adults", and will not be subjected to recommendations in the same way as the other colleges in the area.

A Bis spokesman said this was because it "is expected to join Nacro’s education and training provision by the time that the review publishes its conclusions and recommendations".

A spokesman for Nacro said it would not be able to comment on the area review until the merger had been finalised.

The seven regions named as part of the area reviews – Solent, Sussex Coast, Tees Valley, Birmingham, Greater Manchester, Sheffield and West Yorkshire – now encompass a total of 50 general FE colleges and 34 sixth-form colleges. Reviews will eventually take place across all of the England, and are intended to result in "fewer, larger, more resilient and efficient providers".

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