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London colleges announce mergers and alliances ahead of area reviews

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Several London colleges have announced plans to join forces to improve their services and boost local skills provision.

The struggling Greenwich Community College has revealed proposals to merge with Bromley College of Further & Higher Education, while Barking & Dagenham College and Havering College of Further & Higher Education have agreed a strategic alliance.

The announcements follow the news last month that City and Islington College and neighbouring Westminster Kingsway College were exploring closer collaboration with the potential for a merger.

Greenwich was put into administered status earlier this year after the FE commissioner found “serious problems” with the quality of its offer and its budget position.

It has become one of the smallest colleges in the country, with a turnover of less than £10 million. The college was referred to the FE commissioner after an Ofsted inspection report, published in December, judged it inadequate in every category.

Acting chair Richard Bourne said the college had worked hard to improve the way it operated and to improve the quality of provision. A follow-up inspection in June found it was making “reasonable progress”.

Roger Dawe, chair of Bromley College, said: “Bringing together Bromley and Greenwich colleges gives us an opportunity to enhance the quality of education, skills and training we provide.”

Meanwhile, Barking & Dagenham and Havering colleges in East London are also joining forces to improve skills delivery in an area of London with huge population growth.

The colleges have said that they are both financially robust and similar in size and performance. Their combined provision would create the single largest provider of higher-level skills in the capital.

Rob Whiteman, chair of governors at Barking & Dagenham College, said the alliance made “sound business sense”.

“There is a wealth of talent and knowledge in both our organisations and if we can align our skills delivery system, then the potential benefits for East Londoners and our employers are significant,” he added.

The announcements follow the government’s review of post-16 institutions, which said there would need to be “fewer, larger, more resilient and efficient providers” in future.

Earlier this week, a college and a training provider in the North East announced that they had joined forces to boost vocational training and tackle skills shortages in the region. Stockton Riverside College and NETA Training Trust, both of which are rated good by Ofsted, revealed their merger after more than a year of talks.

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