The FE Commissioner was sent in to Stratford-Upon-Avon College after the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) rated its financial health as inadequate. Nicola Mannock outlines the actions taken on the commissioner’s advice.

Following a year of exceptionally hard work by my dedicated and committed team, Stratford-upon-Avon College is now, as reported by FE Week, officially out of intervention after a final assessment by the FE Commissioner.

The college has also focused on financial controls to allow us to become more efficient, with all expenditure being kept under tight scrutiny

Intervention measures were implemented after an initial assessment by the commissioner, Dr David Collins, in May last year identified certain weaknesses in the college’s governance and financial sustainability and made recommendations to rectify these.

However, I am delighted that, following a further visit in June this year to assess the progress we have made, we received a letter last month from Skills Minister Nick Boles which officially informed us that, since the latest assessment “concludes that the college has fully addressed all the areas of concern that were identified in the initial visit”, Dr Collins’ input is no longer necessary and “the formal FE Commissioner intervention is therefore now at an end”.

I am particularly pleased that the measures we put in place to address the issues raised have been recognised. As recommended by Dr Collins, we made significant changes to our board of governors and, in keeping with our commitment to securing job opportunities for all students, it now has a very impressive breadth of industry and educational expertise.

Our business and educational strengths were further enhanced in October by the high-profile appointment to the board of distinguished business entrepreneur Lord Digby Jones, whose wide-ranging business expertise and support for vocational education will be a tremendous asset.

Moreover, the final assessment report acknowledges that a full training programme has been put in place, ensuring a strong induction programme for new governors.

We have taken steps to improve teaching and learning and established a comprehensive staff development programme. This, together with the recent launch in September of our Apprenticeship Academy, which will provide practical assistance to the county’s students who are interested in apprenticeships with local firms, will enable all our students to set out on the road to a successful career.

In his letter, Mr Boles wrote that he was “encouraged by the actions taken by the college to implement the necessary improvements”. These improvements were recognised in the most recent Ofsted report from March, which acknowledges the fact that the college has acted upon earlier recommendations to improve certain areas.

Ofsted gave us an overall rating of ‘good’ [up from ‘requires improvement’ in November 2013] including in the key areas of leadership and management and teaching, learning and assessment.

We are, of course, committed to even further progress.

The college has also focused on financial controls to allow us to become more efficient, with all expenditure being kept under tight scrutiny. The Final Assessment Report recognises that the college has improved its financial status and concludes that financial performance is under control and following our implemented Financial Plan.

I am immensely proud of what the college has achieved. It is gratifying to note that applications for 2015/2016 are higher than last year and we are seeing a greater recruitment in apprenticeships. However, our aim is to improve further. We have restructured significant aspects of our organisation which will provide not only consistency of approach but also financial benefit. By ending intervention measures, the FE Commissioner has shown that he sees clear evidence of the progress we have made; we are fully committed to building on these developments and demonstrate even greater improvement.