One of the largest educational providers in the country is on the verge of adding another arm to its portfolio.

Subject to Skills Funding Agency approval, Rathbone, a UK-wide voluntary youth sector charity, will merge with NCG, formerly Newcastle College Group, which currently comprises Newcastle College, West Lancashire College and the Intraining Group.

Rathbone will work as part of NCG to create a “sustainable organisation which retains charitable status and builds on its outstanding work with disadvantaged young people and help to generate further growth” for the charity.

Through its 70 offices UK-wide, Rathbone supports 14 -24 year olds previously not in education, employment and training (NEETS) whose needs may not have been met by experience in education or who need extra support.

NCG already delivers education and training to 70,000 individuals and 7,000 businesses from more than 45 locations across the UK.

NCG say the merger will help both organisations to benefit from each of their experiences in the sector and compliment their expertise.

Tom Newbould, group director of marketing and communication at NCG, said: “Rathbone and NCG have identified an opportunity to work together to increase the benefits to the young people they engage and train.

“Rathbone complements NCG’s existing divisions and brings new skills and expertise in the areas of foundation learning, social cohesion and engaging with some of the country’s most hard to reach young people. Many are in areas where NCG have no significant activity.

“NCG operates from over 35 locations across England and Scotland and includes opportunities for young people in sectors that Rathbone cannot currently offer.

“Discussion took place between both organisations, the starting point of which was a shared vision of learning and its importance.”

Mr Newbould also confirmed that there are “no current plans” to change the structure of Rathbone following the merger.

He added: “The Rathbone name will remain following the merger and our mission – to help young people to achieve – will also remain.

“Rathbone will continue to operate as a Registered Charity and part of the third sector.

“It will be ‘business as usual’ and there are no current plans to change the organisational structure.

“We believe this merger will move all of us closer to Elfrida Rathbone’s vision of helping young people to succeed through learning by allowing Rathbone and NCG to engage and help more young people than ever before.”

But while one door is opening for NCG, another one appears to be only ajar – as its merger with Northumberland College has been “deferred” by John Hayes, minister for further education, skills and lifelong learning.

However, NCG insist the merger is “following normal process” and has denied the merger has been delayed. Instead, they are urging the government to move forward with the plans.

Mr Newbould said Jamie Martin, chair of governors at Newcastle College, and Linda Ions, who holds the same position at Northumberland College, have written to Mr Hayes saying all issues between the two colleges have been resolved. The governing bodies of NCG and Northumberland College have also written to Mr Hayes reaffirming the commitment to the merger.

Mr Newbould added: “The merger has not been delayed or halted and both governing bodies are encouraging the minister to expedite the merger. We can reassure everyone in the North East and particularly learners in Northumberland that we could not be any more committed.

“We are planning to invest £77 million over the next four years in educational facilities in the North East. This is an indication of our total commitment to the North East economy at a time when investments of this scale are rare.

“Once the merger is approved we look forward to sharing our exciting plans with the county of Northumberland, which include ambitious plans for refurbishment of facilities for learners in the county.”

A BIS Spokesperson said: “Due to a number of unresolved issues the Further Education Minister John Hayes has deferred taking a decision on this matter.”

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