12 months of FE Week: February

For the last 12 days of 2019 we’re running back through the previous 12 months of FE Week. Today we take a look at February…

A story that would define the year for further education was Hadlow College, and we reported exclusively in the second month of the year on how the FE Commissioner was investigating the Kent provider after accounting irregularities were found.

The ESFA also started making headlines this month when it had to delay issuing European Social Fund contracts due to alleged breach of tender rules, while providers fumed after officials started conducting short notice mystery audits in the wake of the 3aaa scandal.

Our first story of 2019 on Brooklands College, which would later turn out to be a huge subcontracting scandal, was published. We revealed that a private provider it subcontracted with, SCL Security Ltd, was suspended from recruiting apprentices while the government carried out an investigation, and it was found making ‘insufficient progress’ in its first Ofsted monitoring report.

Meanwhile, then-Institute for Apprenticeships boss Sir Gerry Berragan wrote about how the organisation recognised that it can improve how it works with employers, while the University and College Union began what would turn out to be a busy year for industrial action, as 13 colleges went on strike over pay.

We also revealed the impact of the apprenticeship levy drying up and found that providers were turning apprentices from small businesses away, and the Baker clause was labelled a “law without teeth” after it emerged the government did not take any action against schools for noncompliance in the first year of its existence.

Elsewhere, Jacqui Canton, deputy principal of Abingdon and Witney College, explained how over a six-year period her college’s rating for apprenticeships improved from ‘inadequate’ to ‘outstanding’ – and they weren’t even focusing on inspections. “Do the right things for the right reasons and good results will follow” was her advice.

And then chancellor Philip Hammond was urged to show that he does love colleges after representatives from a campaign group demanding more FE funding delivered him a Valentine’s card.