New triggers for DfE college interventions revealed

Department for Education 'oversight' document outlines the triggers for support and intervention in struggling colleges

Stephen Exley

Department for Education unveils new triggers for formal interventions

The Department for Education has announced a new set of triggers for formal intervention in colleges.

The criteria have been unveiled in a new college oversight document, outlining what actions will raise concerns at the Department for Education, and what responses will result.

These will include “local provision reviews” led by the FE commissioner.

Read more: Colleges could face local area reviews by FE commissioner

More news: Area reviews 'have led to more collaboration'

Need to know: The new college insolvency regime

'Making sure colleges succeed'

Apprenticeships and skills minister Anne Milton said: “We want to make sure all colleges succeed. Colleges do fantastic work helping people of all ages and backgrounds to get on and get the skills they need to get into great jobs. Occasionally, we know that some colleges find themselves in difficulty.

“The strengthened college oversight guidance is a new ‘one-stop’ document, which sets out how we will work with colleges to identify issues early on, make sure they are aware of the support available and, where problems persist, explains how we will intervene and support them.

“I encourage all college leaders and governors to read this document and to act early if they see problems ahead. We can then do our best to help.”

New triggers for intervention

  • Requests for emergency funding 
    “Any request for emergency funding to continue the running of the college will always put a college in formal intervention and we will always issue a notice to improve (NtI).”
  • Serious cash-flow pressures
    “Where serious cash-flow pressures are identified, we reserve the right/have discretion to place the college in formal intervention or not but if we do we will always issue a NtI.”
  • Debt recovery
    This can include slippage on re-profiling, government loan repayments and, potentially, a breach of bank covenant. “Where debt recovery is an issue we reserve the right/have the discretion to place the college in formal intervention or not but if we do we will always issue a NtI.”
  • Financial, governance, funding or fraud investigations
    “If we reasonably believe in the course of the investigation (at any point) that we have sufficient evidence of non-compliance [with funding rules] that we will take immediate action including terminating contract/withholding funds. Where investigations are complete and upheld, we reserve the right to place a college in formal intervention.”
  • Questionable financial practice
    “Evidence of financial practice/action taken by an accounting officer and/or governors that is not in the best interests of: value for money, the protection of public funds; the effective delivery of service for learners; does not meet the public benefit test. Where we rely on this trigger we will always place a college in formal intervention and issue a NtI.”
  • Non-compliance with subcontracting rules
    “We reserve the right/have the discretion to place the lead provider in formal intervention and, if we do, we will always issue a NtI.”
  • Failure to submit financial accounts within 30 days of deadline
    “We have the discretion to set a new deadline for the submission of accounts beyond the published date. Where an agreed extension is not met we will always place the college in formal intervention and issue a NtI.”

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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