Chief executive standing down from troubled college group

Chief executive standing down from troubled college group

Bradford College has confirmed that its group chief executive is stepping down after it received both a financial notice to improve and an Oftsed grade three in short succession.

Andy Welsh, who became group chief executive in August 2014, is stepping down at the end of this academic year.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency financial health notice to improve was published this afternoon, a day after Ofsted released its ‘requires improvement’-overall verdict on the college – which has fallen one grade from its previous inspection in 2014.

The chair of the college corporation, Richard Wightman, thanked Mr Welsh, and praised his contribution.

“We are grateful for the support Andy has provided in his time as group chief executive and his contributions as a member of the senior team in the previous decade,” he said.

“In his role as CEO Andy has made significant efforts to improve and raise the college’s external profile and has fostered strong links with businesses and local communities.

“We are confident our executive team is wholly committed to addressing the issues facing the college and supporting and guiding our ongoing journey.”

In his own statement, Mr Welsh said he was proud of the work he had done.

“I have completed three years as CEO, and 14 years at the college in total. I feel it is now time to move on to pursue other goals,” he said.

“During my time in post, I have been proud to see the college position itself as a true partner of business, communities and individuals in Bradford.

“It has been great to see the increasing esteem in which the college is held and that the brilliant work of our students and staff is well recognised.”

A spokesperson for the college would not confirm whether there would be redundancies as a result of the college’s financial problems or the related intervention from the FE commissioner Richard Atkins.

But she conceded that the college “must now make significant financial savings, the timescale of which is yet to be determined”.

“The college is committed to mitigating the impact on staff and students, and has assured staff it will provide open and honest communications, consultation and support during this difficult period,” she said.

The college appointed a new director of finance and central services at the start of this academic year.

Chris Malish joined after almost nine years at the University of Bradford, in roles including interim finance director.

“Chris will now lead the college’s financial recovery plan and operational implementation working with the ESFA and FE commissioner,” she said.

The college, which enrolled just over 15,000 learners last academic year, was allocated around £14.7 million for 2017/18 by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, as of November.

According to the financial notice to improve, the college “must work with the ESFA and the FE commissioner and his advisers to undertake an independent assessment of the college’s capability and capacity to make the required changes and improvements”.

Authorities must undertake regular reviews of potential cashflow requirements, and must supply the ESFA with monthly management accounts.

Earlier this academic term the college informed senior managers that financial savings would need to be made. Predicted savings in 2016/17 were not fully realised, while other factors, including lower-than-expected HE student numbers, capital repayments and the need to increase cash holdings alongside predicated inflation rates, have led the college to seek financial support from the ESFA.

Kirklees College, rated ‘good’ overall by Ofsted, was also issued with a financial notice to improve at the same time, which said it had been referred for FE commissioner intervention. 

Oftsed confirmed in a report published yesterday that Bradford College had slipped from ‘good’ overall to ‘requires improvement’.

Only its adult learning programmes and apprenticeships were considered to be grade two.

Inspectors said that leaders and managers needed to ensure that learner attendance improves “especially in English and maths lessons”, and that they should “assess the quality of teaching, learning and assessment more realistically”.

“Too few learners make the progress of which they are capable from their starting points,” it warned.