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College placed in 'administered status' owing to poor finances

Following an intervention inspection by the FE commissioner, the skills minister has written to the college to inform them its financial health needs to be improved urgently

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Following an intervention inspection by the FE commissioner, the skills minister has written to the college to inform them its financial health needs to be improved urgently

A college has been plac in administered college status owing to “significant challenges” around its finances.

Barnfield College, in Luton, will now be subject to a commissioner-led structure and a prospects appraisal will now take place, which is expected to be completed by July.

An intervention report from the further education commissioner in February, published today, says a “step change is urgently required, both in the quality and reliability of financial information coupled with decisive leadership to right-size the college and deliver a realistic and credible financial recovery plan”.

FE commissioner Richard Atkins notes that the college, which has around 1,500 full-time, has exceptionally high pay costs as a percentage of turnover – pay accounts for 90 per cent of adjusted turnover in the 2017-18 academic year.

Decline in financial health

Atkins also notes that the college has “ambitious plans” for relocation of its two main campuses on a 1.8 acre site which it has acquired in the centre of Luton adjacent to the main railway station. Scheme costs of up to £57 million are to be financed through a combination of asset sales, local enterprise partnership grant and bridging loans. A target date of project completion has been set for September 2021.

A letter to the clerk of the corporation from skills minister Anne Milton reveals that the college in Luton was referred to the further education commissioner following the “decline in its financial health".

The chair of the board of governors resigned last month, which Milton says “intensifies the need to urgently put in place measures to strengthen and improve governance and leadership at the college”.

In January the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) issued a financial health notice to improve to the college.

The college was last inspected by Ofsted in January, where inspectors found the college “requires improvement”. Its apprenticeships provision was rated “inadequate”, which means it can no longer take on new apprentices. The college’s provision for learners with high needs, however, was rated “good”.

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