West Nottinghamshire College has been placed in administered status, following a report by the FE commissioner. In his report published today, Richard Atkins also states that the college should review the accountability of the principal/chief executive and accounting officer, following what he calls “a serious corporate failure”.
The college’s principal and chief executive, Dame Asha Khemka (pictured), resigned in October following concerns about the college's financial position.
According to today’s commissioner report, “West Nottinghamshire College has experienced a serious corporate failure in the summer of 2018”.
It adds: “During several years of adopting growth strategies focused on apprenticeships, adult learning and subcontracting, the college’s financial reserves depleted until it entirely ran out of cash in July 2018.
“The board and principal/chief executive have overseen a serious business failure, which will impact on the whole college. There needs to be an urgent review that ensures that those with ultimate responsibilities are held to account."
The report continues: "Given the profile and reputation of both the college and its principal/CEO, this failure will inevitably attract considerable attention. As a matter of urgency, the college should develop a robust and reliable recovery plan so as to ensure that learners, employers and the wider community in Mansfield and Ashfield enjoy the benefits of a sound, financially sustainable, FE college."
Insolvency regime for FE
The report also states that the college needs to more effectively performance-manage its executive team: “The chair and other board members need to reflect on their role and responsibilities for the college’s current exposure, as the FE insolvency regime comes into play in April 2019.”
However, the report also states that Ofsted judged the quality of provision at the college to be good in 2017, and the evidence that the FE commissioner team saw "suggests that this has been maintained, and that approaches to quality assurance and improvement are very good".
The report adds that learners "clearly value the opportunities the college offers them".
"Those who need extra support are very well looked after and developed. Level 1 and 2 learners make good and appropriate progress. The college is valued by its community and stakeholders, and strives to meet their needs and raise aspirations."
'Progress has been made'
A spokesman for the college said it accepted the findings of the commissioner's report. "As such, we are working closely with the commissioner’s office and the Education and Skills Funding Agency to implement the report’s recommendations and improve our financial situation.
"Significant progress has been made already; not least the appointment of an experienced interim principal and chief executive who officially joined us on 29 October to take the organisation forward, and substantial strengthening of our governing body by recruiting more people from a financial background."
"The immediate priority is to complete work on our financial recovery plan, which will see the college continuing to provide a high-quality experience for students, employers and the communities we serve. Maintaining a vibrant and vocationally-relevant curriculum that prepares young people, adults and apprentices for further study or work will be absolutely central to this."
The spokesman added: "While the scale of the challenges we face cannot be underestimated, the senior leadership team and governing body are united in their ambition to return the college to a stable financial footing and ensure it has a thriving future."