College WLTM partner to save it from Ofsted

A college which issued a "come and get me" plea for merger partners after failing an inspection has found nine prospective suitors.

The struggling Skelmersdale and Ormskirk College produced a prospectus to encourage applications for a merger after Ofsted put it into special measures in July.

Steve Broomhead, chairman of the college corporation, said the college is now flirting with the idea of a long distance relationship, after an institution based 180 miles away expressed an interest.

He said: "A very solid proposition has been put to us. We will be in discussions with that college, working with the local authority, trade unions, staff and so on."

It would mean that the Lancashire college could be paired with one as far away as Bristol to the south or Northumberland to the north.

The other eight colleges which are in talks are all based in the north-west of England.

Nine expressions of interest is regarded as a success for the merger prospectus, which was dubbed "a personal ad for colleges" by the University and College Union when it first appeared two months ago.

Mr Broomhead stressed that any merger would maintain a college site in Skelmersdale. He said: "One thing that is not negotiable is that there must be an educational presence within Skelmersdale. This is a merger not a closure."

The college is signalling its commitment to stay in the town by commissioning St Modwen's, a property company, and the Government regeneration body English Partnerships to find them a site for new buildings.

Governors want to replace the aging buildings, formerly used as a comprehensive school, with a modern, purpose-built campus.

Together with the merger plans, it forms part of the college's response to an Ofsted report which criticised the leadership for years of missed targets and deficits.

With adults forming 89 per cent of the college's 10,000 students cuts to adult education exacerbated its financial difficulties.

Mr Broomhead said the college is teaching as normal in the meantime, with a decision on the partner expected early next year.

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