Barnfield College is considering seeking private equity investment and maximising the new FE financial freedoms to further enhance our focus on providing an excellent education and training system, which offers students the most choice and best support to ensure success in the future.

By changing our legal form to being a company limited by guarantee there could be greater financial flexibility as the company limited by guarantee could possibly establish a subsidiary, a company limited by shares, which could then seek investment and make a surplus.

Firm plans for the spending of any private investment are yet to be confirmed, however, there are multiple options which include increasing the size of the college, expanding commercial income generation activities, as well as improving facilities across the Federation.

I am certain the students in the classroom would see no difference other than improvements”

Financial backing is being investigated from both banks and private equity investors, but we are focusing more closely on private equity investors as they too would bring their own ideas, commercial expertise and greater support.

The possible change in status will not result in any increased course fees, if anything I am looking to find ways to reduce costs and ensure access for all. Fees are currently prohibitive to many students seeking an education – so wouldn’t it be perfect to remove such barriers?

I am certain the students in the classroom would see no difference other than improvements.

Any surplus generated would be shared between further investment, the college staff and the equity investor, in a manner similar to the John Lewis model. The staff as shareholders would therefore own the college and would be rewarded accordingly for success.

Public funds and assets, such as the college itself, would be protected by the company limited by guarantee and the charitable trust would not be impacted. I am excited about the development opportunities this model will bring. Standing still is the same as going backwards and Barnfield is about moving forwards, creating great schools, offering more choice and widening access for all.

The Federations improvement strategy has been based round the five strategic principles that reflect how we operate – all of which was initially born from the college as sponsor:

• Positive thinking – raising aspiration and not accepting excuses for poor performance;
• The critical essentials – having the right people doing the right things;
• The critical non-essentials – these are the things that will take you from good to great;
• Enjoyment and opportunity for staff and students; and
• No compromise on standards – raise the bar (particularly in relation to leadership, teaching and learning, monitoring and behaviour).

Barnfield has always been about being entrepreneurial and the consideration to turn company status reflects our constant drive to improve standards at outcomes. In September 2011, we continued our leading ways by being the first FE College to sponsor a Free School.

The Federation is now led by the Barnfield Education Partnership Trust – members of the Federation include Barnfield College (16 years upwards), Barnfield South and West Academies (11-18 years), the country’s first FE sponsored Studio School (14-18 years enterprise academy) and of course our most recent addition – Barnfield Moorlands Free School.

I have always embraced freedoms and change and it is for the benefit of every student within the college and all of these academies that I want to find new ways of adding even more value to their experience at Barnfield. And, also, to empower staff even further to realise the wonderful impact their teaching has on our students and to be rewarded and celebrated for the work that they do.

Finally, this is only one of several options being explored by the college board and still in the early stages of development. Once it is more firmed up, appropriate consultation will take place.

Pete Birkett Chief Executive,
Barnfield Federation.