Struggling Epping Forest College racks up another financial notice

An Essex college has received a second financial notice to improve in under six months by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

The notice for Epping Forest College, for financial control, was published today alongside an inspection notice to improve for Moulton College, which Ofsted rated ‘inadequate’ last month.

EFC’s notice, dated March 23, was issued after it asked for exceptional financial support.

It joins the notice for financial health issued in December, to go with notices for both inspection and apprenticeship minimum standards from earlier in 2017.

The college must now “update and strengthen” its financial recovery plan “to address financial and management control issues identified by the college’s internal audit committee”.

That plan must “demonstrate that the college has an informed route to significant and sustained improvements” with “appropriate measures and milestones that support the college and ESFA in assessing progress being made”.

Meanwhile, it must “continue to submit management accounts” including “confirmation of spend above £20,000” on a monthly basis.

And evidence of an improvement in its financial management and control must be shown in its 2017/18 audited financial statements, to be submitted in December.

Consultation recently opened on plans for EFC to join forces with New City College, in the capital.

A merger by August this year was one of the conditions of the college’s notice to improve for financial health, issued in December.

The letter issued to Moulton College, dated April 5, makes it clear that the college is “in scope for referral to the FE commissioner”.

It was slammed for delivering “unsafe” training in “highly dangerous vocational areas” such as construction and equine studies in a damning Ofsted report published on April 3.

Today’s notice states that the college must improve “at reinspection to at least an overall effectiveness of grade three” in order to keep getting ESFA funding.

“If, on reinspection, Ofsted judges Moulton College to be overall ‘inadequate’ in whole or in part for a second time, the college will have failed to comply with the additional conditions”.

Such a failure would mean the ESFA would “pursue one or more of a range options” in its funding agreement with the college – although it “reserves the right to take further action”.

In addition, any recommendations made by the FE commissioner could be added to the notice following his intervention at the college.

Richard Atkins’ recommendations to Cadbury College were included in an updated notice to improve for financial health, reissued today but originally published December 15.

His report, published in March, reported a “series of financial items” that “could result in the college being at immediate risk”.

According to today’s notice, an FE commissioner-led structure and prospects appraisal should be undertaken “to examine if there is a sustainable future for Cadbury Sixth-Form College through the identification of an appropriate merger partner”.

Any merger should be completed by the end of December, the notice stated.

Sussex Downs College’s notice of concern for financial health, originally handed out on November 13, was lifted on March 29 due to the college’s merger with Sussex Coast College, according to a letter to the college published today.

“However, we expect that you will continue to take necessary action to address the reasons why the notice originally issued,” it said.