ESFA investigation found college taking 25% subcontracting topslice did not know where course for 16-19s took place for first 6 months

A college in west Anglia has been banned from entering into new subcontracting arrangements after a government investigation found it did not know where training for 16 to 19-year-olds was being delivered.

An inquiry into the College of West Anglia’s relationship with GEMEG Limited was launched at the end of 2017 following allegations of severe mismanagement, including the subcontractor imposing fines on students.

An MP, understood to be John Mann for Bassettlaw, provided 223 documents to support the allegations.

The provision on offer included work experience at Worksop Town Football Club and Worksop Town Football Academy and affected at least 19 students.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency found that GEMEG failed to inform the college where provision was initially delivered.

Registers stated that provision was delivered in Nottingham rather than Worksop – an hour’s drive away – which meant that CoWA “did not know where training was being delivered for the first six months of the programme”.

“Because CoWA did not visit the students for the first six months of the programme, they could not have established that the 19 students were actually on the programme,” the ESFA said.

GEMEG also did not provide “sufficient evidence that they had assessed appropriately, student learning needs when students enrolled on the programme”.

But even when the college discovered the location used for training in Worksop was not “entirely suitable for teaching”, the college took “no effective action”.

During the investigation one student said GEMEG fined them for non-attendance when on holiday. The subcontractor denies this and the college said it was not aware of any fees or fines charged to students by GEMEG.

Worksop Town Football Club was supposed to be paid by GEMEG for the use of the club’s services, such as room hire.

But the club claim that they “did not receive the funds and are considering their options regarding this matter, including whether to refer the issue to the police”.

The ESFA was unable to confirm if funds were paid during investigation.

The maximum contract value between CoWA and GEMEG was originally £140,000 but reduced in November 2015 to £100,000 due to lower than expected recruitment.

CoWA, which took a 25 per cent management fee from the deal, confirmed that the total funds claimed by GEMEG for the 19 identified students was £50,817.75.

The college ended the subcontracting arrangement in July 2016, and is now banned from taking on new subcontractors until issues identified by the ESFA are resolved.

The college must now carry out a “full review of subcontracting controls and assurance systems and processes, and provide assurance to the ESFA that these are operating effectively for all subcontracted provision”.

It currently has £1.3 million worth of subcontracting deals across six providers for adult funding.

CoWA’s principal David Pomfret said: “This report relates to concerns dating back nearly three years about the practices of one of our subcontractors. As a result of our own concerns, we ended our association with this provider in July 2016, long before any ESFA concerns came to light.

“The report raises concerns about CWA’s oversight and management of the subcontracting. At the time of the ESFA’s investigation visit to CWA in November 2017, we had already implemented changes to our processes to address most of the perceived weaknesses and recommendations mentioned in the report.”

She added: “Since then, we have further strengthened oversight of sub-contracting delivery, which includes our own staff directly overseeing enrolment of 16-18 year olds and discontinuing non-local study programme subcontracted delivery.

“We have also carried out a full review of subcontracting controls and assurance systems and processes and are confident these are operating effectively for all subcontracted provision.”