FE Commissioner ends work at Lancashire Adult Learning and Stratford Upon Avon College

Further Education Commissioner Dr David Collins (pictured above) has ended his involvement at two more FE and skills providers.

Lancashire Adult Learning (LAL), which was told by Dr Collins earlier this year to scale down its skills offer, has been told by Skills Minister Nick Boles that Dr Collins’ input was no longer needed.

Mr Boles also wrote to Stratford Upon Avon College last month (October) to say that Dr Collins’ intervention there had ended, too.

It comes after similar notes from the minister were sent to Barnfield College and Weymouth College outlining they no longer needed Dr Collins’ help.

The letter to LAL, which is run by Lancashire County Council and has round 22,000 learners, brings to an end the process which began with Dr Collins’ initial visit in January, following an inadequate rating from Ofsted in November.

The adviser’s report says: “Lancashire Adult and Community Learning is being transformed.”

It continues: “There is clear evidence of a changing culture.”

Amanda Melton, LAL’s interim principal, said she was “delighted” at the news.

“The staff and students have responded extremely positively to the changes, and I applaud them for their hard work and enthusiasm,” added Ms Melton.

One of Dr Collins’ seven recommendations in his initial report, published in March, was that LAL “should restrict its activities to adult and community learning”.

While the minister’s letter to LAL has not yet been published, a spokesperson said that apprenticeship provision was the only programme that had been affected.

At the time of the Ofsted inspection in November there were around 300 apprentices being trained at LAL.

The “vast majority” of these learners completed their programme with LAL, the spokesperson said.

Employers were given support to find alternative training providers for their apprenticeships, the spokesperson added.

Mr Boles’ letter to Stratford Upon Avon College, published on October 27, marks the end of a 17-month long intervention by the FE Commissioner, which was triggered after the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) rated the college’s finances as inadequate.

In his letter, Mr Boles said he was “encouraged by the actions taken by the college to implement the necessary improvements”.

Dr Collins’ recommendations to the college following his first visit in May 2014 included “significantly” refreshing the board to include “a majority of new members”.

Principal Nicola Mannock would “benefit from being mentored by an experience principal”.

Her appointment, without a competitive recruitment process, had led a number of governors to resign in protest, and was described by Dr Collins as “questionable”.

The college, which has around 4,300 learners, was rated good by Ofsted at its most recent inspection in March.

No one from Stratford Upon Avon College was available for comment.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the commissioner’s involvement had also ended at City of Liverpool College, K College, City of Wolverhampton College, Bicton College, Norton Radstock College and Warrington Borough Council.

Somerset College merger plans approved by Dr Collins

A college has had its merger plans approved by the FE Commissioner after he was sent in over financial concerns.

Somerset College of Arts and Technology, in Taunton, was already in the process of developing plans to merge with another local college when it received an inadequate rating for financial health from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) in June, triggering Dr Collins’ involvement.

In his report, which was published last week, Dr Collins recommended the college leadership team should “be supported in their merger proposals”. It was a conclusion agreed upon by Skills Minister Nick Boles in his letter to the college.

Somerset College principal Rachel Davies has since opened a consultation on merging with Bridgewater College, also in Somerset, and rated as outstanding in 2007 after last inspection.

Dr Collins said Somerset College, which has around 7,700 learners and was rated good overall at its most recent Ofsted inspection in 2011, had “many strengths” but was “struggling to maintain financial stability in the face of demographic changes and a highly competitive environment”.

A Somerset College spokesperson said it had been “encouraged to continue” in the merger plans by the FE Commissioner.

Meanwhile, 31,500-learner Birmingham Metropolitan College has had its past financial management branded “not acceptable” by Dr Collins.

The FE Commissioner was sent into the college in August after it requested “exceptional financial support” (EFS) from the Skills Funding Agency. However, Dr Collins also welcomed progress made at the college, which was given £4.5m in EFS during the twelve months to July. Read more on this story.

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