A college fighting for survival is selling off land and a historic mansion to make way for houses in a deal worth around £45 million, FE Week understands.
Leaders at Brooklands College, which has failed to file accounts for the past three years after being stung by a £20 million apprenticeship scandal, claim that the new venture will ensure the college’s financial security going forwards.
The college has teamed up with housebuilding company Cala Homes to undergo a “resizing” project which involves redeveloping its Weybridge campus.
The college has remained tight-lipped about exactly how much land and property will be released, but a spokesperson said most parts are ex landfill sites and surplus to requirements.
FE Week understands that the college’s three-storey, Grade II listed red brick Victorian mansion called Brooklands House, which was built in the late 1890s, is one property that will be redeveloped for housing.
The property used to house the family of Dame Ethel Locke King, who was behind the famous Brooklands racing circuit, previously dubbed the ‘Ascot of Motorsport’.
The college’s plans, put out for public consultation this week, say the mansion “has fallen into decline because it is not suitable for education use and the college cannot afford to maintain it to the standard necessary for a listed building”.
Brooklands College claimed that no staff will lose their jobs as part of the resizing project, and no course provision will be lost.
Principal Christine Ricketts said the partnership will allow the local community greater access to the college’s “beautiful woodlands”, as well as greater access to its sporting, catering and hair and beauty facilities.
She said: “We have considered our position in the community, our history of service and our commitment to education and skills training, knowing that in order to recover from past financial struggles we must refine our approach.
“The resizing of the college is part of this process. Choosing to focus on offering our students and staff, greener, state of the art facilities means that we can continue to offer our local community the very best in vocational skills and training.”
The deal will provide funds to allow the college to revitalise its teaching spaces, including a new sports hall and “independent working hub” for the use of the college and wider public.
Brooklands College refused to say how much money it will gain from the project, but FE Week understands it will be in the region of £45 million.
As well as the deal with Cala Homes, the college also recently secured an undisclosed share of the Department for Education’s further education capital transformation fund.
Chair Andrew Baird said: “These proposals are the culmination of several years of work by the Brooklands leaders and their advisers.
“Governors were looking to reshape the College to meet the skills needs of the local community in the first half of the 21st century and we believe that this scheme achieves that aim, while recognising the College’s historic place and character in the community.”
Brooklands College was plunged into financial difficulty in late 2018 after an FE Week investigation exposed how it subcontracted out almost £20 million to a small private training provider called SCL Security Ltd in just three years.
The ESFA, FE Commissioner and Ofsted then stepped in to investigate, which led to the private provider, headed up by Andrew Merritt, being kicked out of the apprenticeships market.
Among other 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.
SCL Security Ltd filed for insolvency in October 2020.
The college has refused to divulge details relating to the £20 million clawback and its plan for payment to the ESFA.
The debacle led to the resignation of former principal Gail Walker and chair Terry Lazenby.
Ricketts took over as principal in May 2019 before Baird, one of the government’s paid national leaders of governance, was parachuted in to chair the college in October 2019.
The college has not filed accounts since 2018 or published board minutes since October 2021.