Three-time ‘inadequate’ college merger completes

Three-time 'inadequate' college merger completes

A college that was recently rated ‘inadequate’ for the third time in five years has finally completed a merger.

Stockport College, which has also had a notice of concern for financial health since 2010, formally joined forces with grade two Trafford College today to form the Trafford College Group.

“Our aim is for our learners to be ahead of the competition in terms of successfully securing meaningful employment and progression to higher level study,” said Lesley Davies, group principal and chief executive.

“We are putting at the core of our programmes employability and professional skills development, underpinned practically with: a digital entitlement; a values-driven curriculum; an emphasis on professional behaviours; and setting the standards and aspirations for our students at a high level, working with them.”

The merged institution will have a turnover of £37 million and over 14,000 learners and apprentices, according to today’s announcement.

Stockport College received its first grade four rating in September 2013, followed by a ‘requires improvement’ in December 2014.

But in October 2016 it had slipped to ‘inadequate’ again – a grade it held onto in a report published this March, following re-inspection in January.

The college has also been struggling financially and has had a notice of concern for financial health since December 2010 – longer than any other college currently.

According to Trafford College’s 2016/17 financial statements the merger was dependent on “the successful outcome to the application for Restructuring Funds” to “address Stockport College’s significant legacy liabilities”.

Stockport was also slapped with notice of concern for inspection in November 2016, with a further notice for apprenticeship minimum standards the following March.

The college was placed in administered status by former FE commissioner David Collins in 2013, and it’s not clear if this was ever lifted.

It had emerged from the troubled Greater Manchester area review with a plan for a three-way merger involving Oldham and Tameside colleges.

But this was scrapped following intervention by current FE commissioner Richard Atkins in early 2017.

Trafford College, which had an income of £22.2 million in 2016/17, had been set to join the LTE Group on the same basis as the Manchester College, but “decided not to formalise this through structural change or merger”, according to its financial statements.