Troubled colleges handed financial health notices and minimum standards breaches

Three financial health notices and two breaches of minimum standard college reports have been published by the Department for Education.

It was double-trouble for Easton and Otley College, rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted’, which received one of each and has been told to stop recruitment of learners in some areas.

The other financial health notice was given to Havering College of Further and Higher Education, while the minimum standards notices to improve were for Morley College and Prospects College of Advanced Technology.

The proportion of leavers below the minimum standard threshold for Easton and Otley’s adult education is 49.2 per cent,

The ESFA now requires the college to “suspend the recruitment of learners on the learning aims listed in red text in Schedule B, with the exception of Access to HE; and Functional Skills and GCSE maths and English”, and “withdraw from all 19+ education and training subcontracting arrangements that have reported provision below the ESFA minimum standard”.

The funding agency also requires the college to “not enter into any new subcontracting arrangements until such time that you have demonstrated, to the ESFA’s satisfaction, that the quality of subcontracted provision has improved and you have improved the monitoring of delivery by sub-contractors”.

The college must also work with the ESFA and the FE commissioner to make the “required changes and improvements, as they deem appropriate” regarding its finances.

“The college must prepare and share with the ESFA the revised financial recovery plan within four weeks of the receipt of this letter.”

Havering College’s notice brings it into scope of FE commissioner intervention, meanwhile.

It must prepare a financial recovery plan “that will give the ESFA sufficient confidence that the actions planned will bring about sufficient and sustained improvements”, on the basis of being a standalone entity.

The recovery plan should aim to secure the college’s financial position by demonstrating a financial health grade of at least ‘satisfactory’ for two successive years.

It was announced last month that Havering College and the neighbouring Havering Sixth Form College are in talks about merging with New City College – a move which would create one of the largest college groups in the country.

PROCAT, which found a merger partner this week after it was told it would struggle to survive as a standalone institution by the FE commissioner, has shockingly bad achievement rates.

The ESFA said the proportion of leavers below the minimum standard threshold for its adult education is 83.6 per cent.

The funding agency now requires it to “suspend/withdraw from all 19+ education and training subcontracting arrangements that have reported provision below the ESFA minimum standard”.

“We also recommend that you inform learners funded through advanced learner loans and bursary that you have failed the ESFA’s minimum standard for 19+ education and training,” it added.

PROCAT, which already has a financial notice to improve, must also “produce an improvement plan that demonstrates immediate action will be taken to bring about significant and sustained improvement to the 19+ education and training provision that failed minimum standards”.

Morley College is required to also produce an improvement plan, after the ESFA found the proportion of leavers below the minimum standard threshold to be 47 per cent.

Its action plan should be “sufficient to improve provision to meet minimum standards in 19+ education and training provision that failed in 2016/2017 when the QAR data for 2017/2018 is published”.