First college created in 20 years hit with financial notice

An FE college that was only instituted in 2014 has been issued with a financial notice to improve, just six months after its former leader retired.

Prospects College of Advanced Technology, which converted from an independent training provider to college status four years ago, when it became the first to be instituted in 20 years, was hit with the notice – published today – on January 30.

“PROCAT has been assessed as having inadequate financial health by ESFA following a review of the college’s latest outturn figures for 2016/17 and the revised budget for 2017/18 and associated information, submitted to ESFA 5 January 2018,” it said.

As part of the conditions of the notice, the college will receive a visit from the FE commissioner Richard Atkins and his team to carry out an “independent assessment of the college’s capability and capacity to make the required changes and improvements within a reasonable period of time”.

The college must also supply a draft recovery plan setting out how it will “secure the college’s financial position”.

PROCAT, which had a turnover of £9 million in 2015/16, is currently led by Ros Parker.

She took over from the former principal Neil Bates, who retired at the end of July after more than 30 years at the helm.

Under his leadership, the Essex-based charity, formerly an independent training provider known as Prospects Learning Foundation, legally reclassified as an FE college – the first time this had been allowed by the government since 1993.

Following PROCAT’s transfer to college status, the provider underwent an £11.5 million expansion of its main Basildon training base and now has around 2,000 learners.

In its first ever Ofsted report in February last year, Mr Bates led the college to a ‘good’ grade.

But questions were asked of the rating after the report’s publication was delayed by 90 days after its inspection – three times as long as the average 30 days between inspection and report being published.

FE Week has asked the college for a copy of its latest accounts, but has not yet received them.