Chair quits at college stung by £20m scandal and replaced by DfE consultant

A college rocked by a £20 million apprenticeship scandal is now being run by a Department for Education consultant after the chair stood down, FE Week can reveal.

Terry Lazenby (pictured right) resigned from Brooklands College this week.

It is a relatively small college that FE Week understands is now trading whilst insolvent, after the government demanded it returns a huge amount of funding.

Terry was passionate and committed to the student experience

Lazenby’s replacement on an interim basis is Andrew Baird (pictured left), one of the DfE’s National Leaders of Governance, who is on their payroll and takes home £300 a day for his services.

Baird, who is also currently the chair of governors at Orbital South Colleges, was parachuted into Hadlow College earlier this year after financial irregularities were exposed.

He stopped being chair of Hadlow when it went into administration in May – making it the first to go through the new college insolvency regime.

Baird will be paid for up to 15 days work between now and the end of the year at Brooklands College, according to the DfE.

The department confirmed they offered Baird to Brooklands as interim chair, and the decision to appoint him was taken by the college’s governing body. They declined to comment on how much influence they had in the resignation of Lazenby, who was chair of the audit committee when the apprenticeship funds were received.

A spokesperson said: “We welcome the college’s appointment of Andrew Baird as chair, who brings a wide range of experience within FE and beyond.” 

A Brooklands College spokesperson said it was “pleased to announce” Baird as the new chair of governors with immediate effect on Wednesday.

“Governors look forward to the opportunity to work with Andrew in taking forward the strategic intentions of the corporation,” she added.

Brooklands College’s future currently hangs in the balance following an Education and Skills Funding Agency investigation into its subcontracting relationship with a training firm called SCL Security Ltd.

Amongst many findings, the agency discovered that apprenticeship funding was being used to pay the wages for the 16 to 18-year-olds, which is strictly against the funding rules.

The ESFA has now demanded it pays up to £20 million back to the government.

ESFA boss Eileen Milner also sent a sector-wide letter today, which promised a crackdown on “complacency and mismanagement” of subcontracting deals, as well as “deliberate and systematic fraud”.

Prior to taking over as chair, Lazenby had been vice chair since 2014, a member of three committees including audit and attended 32 out of 33 board and committee meetings in the past three years, according to the published college accounts.

Audit committee meeting minutes show that Lazenby was fully aware of the scale of subcontracting, noting in a September 2017 meeting it was “a significantly higher proportion of income at Brooklands than many FE colleges”.

The audit committee for Brooklands currently only has three members, following the recent resignation of its chair Jerry Loy, as revealed in minutes from a board meeting for June 2019.

Gail Walker, who worked her way up to principal and chief executive of Brooklands after joining in 2011, resigned in March.

She was replaced on an interim basis by deputy principal Christine Ricketts and vice principal Shereen Sameresinghe, who are splitting the role.

The college’s spokesperson said: “In recognising the previous chair’s achievements the interim principal and interim chief executive expressed their gratitude for Terry’s commitment to the college.

“Terry Lazenby MBE, a former chief engineer at BP, was an accessible and visible member of the governing Board to both staff and students.

“Terry was passionate and committed to the student experience and actively engaged in student life to inspire the next generation of engineers.”

Lazenby said all staff at the college “have the best interests of our students at the heart of everything they do”. He did not respond to a request for comment on the ESFA’s investigation.

The DfE said Baird is the only National Leader of Governance, paid by the department, who is currently acting as interim chair of a college.