Brooklands College has finally signed a repayment agreement with the government following a long-running £20 million subcontracting scandal – but leaders are keeping the details under wraps.
The college has been locked in negotiations with the Education and Skills Funding Agency over a clawback dispute since 2018, after officials found illegal use of funding at SCL Security Ltd, which delivered apprenticeships on behalf of Brooklands.
The Surrey-based college, which has failed to file accounts for the past four years, recently announced plans to sell a historic building and land in a deal understood to be in the region of £45 million to help balance the books and pay the agency back.
Last week, the ESFA published a revised notice to improve for Brooklands which confirmed the college is still in formal intervention and “supervised” status due to its “declining/weak financial health” and the “significant financial risk presented by the findings of the investigations into subcontracting”.
The notice revealed the college continues to be suspended from entering into any new subcontracting arrangements, and places a condition that states the governing body must “demonstrate that it has the requisite capacity and capability within its management team and professional advisers to deliver this significant capital development project”.
It also said the college must use its “best endeavours” to agree and sign “the repayment agreement, along with related security and bank documentation, by 28 February 2023”.
The college must then “prioritise the repayment of DfE funding related to non-compliant subcontracting”.
Brooklands principal Christine Ricketts told FE Week the corporation “passed a resolution to sign the repayment agreement on the February 27”.
She said: “The college is in the process of finalising the details of both the estates development project and the repayment agreement, and this is in the advanced stages of reaching a conclusion.”
However, the college “is not in a position to share the details at this stage”, she added. “The college has a very good relationship with the ESFA and we will continue to work closely to reach a conclusion.”
Reports have emerged in recent weeks of unrest among Brooklands College staff.
University and College Union regional official Michael Moran said staff at the college are working “above and beyond to provide a decent education for their students”, adding that leadership “must improve both working conditions and the learning environment at the college, or see its reputation drop even further”.
Ricketts claimed the college “continues to keep staff updated on the financial position”.