FE commissioner: Merger may be on cards for two colleges

The FE commissioner has released reports on three FE colleges, while two others have been removed from intervention

The FE commissioner has said two may have to find merger partners due to financial difficulties

The FE commissioner has said two colleges may have to find merger partners due to financial difficulties.

Moulton College has been in FE commissioner intervention since being referred in February 2017 due to an inadequate financial health score score in 2015-16. The intervention's focus has now been extended to quality of provision, following the outcome of the recent Ofsted inspection in March which rated the college as inadequate.

Ofsted inspectors visiting the Northamptonshire institution found that not all students and apprentices were safe when undertaking activities, leading to the resignation of the principal.

Actions identified

The commissioner’s report notes “that the specific issues identified in the report had started to be addressed with practical actions identified and further specific training provided where necessary.”

However, in view of the “deteriorating financial position” an commissioner-led structure and prospects appraisal (SPA) will be completed by July which “considers the full range of options including merger”.

'Very small turnover'

In January 2018, Prospects College of Advanced Technology (PROCAT) was issued with a financial notice to improve by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and referred to the FE commissioner for formal intervention.

The commissioners has now said the college is “extremely unlikely to be able to deal with its financial challenges alone.” The college is very small in terms of turnover – the average FE college in England is around three times its size – which makes paying market rates for staff in Essex harder, leading to a high staff turnover of over 40 per cent.

The report envisages that a merger partner will be found and will be completed by the end of the year.

Cease provision

Sunderland City Metropolitan Borough Council was referred to the FE commissioner team for formal intervention after Ofsted inspectors found in January that the local authority’s apprenticeships and family, adult and community learning was inadequate.

The FE commissioner recommends that the council should “cease apprenticeship provision” and work closely with the ESFA to “develop more effective ways of delivering apprenticeship programmes” using providers with greater experience and success.

Meanwhile Gateway Sixth Form College in Leicestershire and Essex county council’s adult and community learning have been removed from FE Commissioner intervention.

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