A college that has battled through perilous financial challenges is set to be banned from delivering apprenticeships after Ofsted judged the provision ‘inadequate’, FE Week understands.
Coventry College will receive its third consecutive overall grade three report in the coming weeks but is expected to see its grade for apprenticeships drop to a four.
The college was unable to comment on the report itself ahead of publication, but a spokesperson suggested their focus in recent years has had to be on finances after almost going insolvent while being aware of the “challenges faced across some areas of our provision”.
Under Education and Skills Funding Agency rules, colleges and training providers which receive an ‘inadequate’ grade are removed from the register of apprenticeship training providers, meaning they can no longer offer the provision.
Coventry College’s recently published accounts for 2022 show that it enrolled 5,729 learners in total, 377 of whom were apprentices.
A 2020 FE Commissioner intervention report detailed how a lack of “clear post-merger strategy” – following the college’s formation from a merger between Henley College Coventry and City College Coventry in 2017 – and “robust scrutiny” led to a “substantial deterioration of financial stability”, which led to it almost going bust.
The college then recruited Carol Thomas as principal and she appears to have improved its finances.
Its 2022 accounts show an overall surplus of £1 million compared to a deficit of £4.7 million in 2021, cash balances of £5.8 million, and an ESFA financial health rating of ‘good’. It’s financial notice to improve was closed last year.
The turnaround includes the closure and future sale of the college’s Henley campus.
Thomas’ salary increased from £145,000 in 2021 to £156,000 in 2022, according to the college’s accounts. But the college’s quality of education has failed to improve according to Ofsted.
The forthcoming report will be its second ‘requires improvement’ grade since merger. Henley College and City College Coventry were both also a grade three before the merger and the latter had previously been judged ‘inadequate’ on two occasions.
A Coventry College spokesperson said: “We can stress that, since the last Ofsted inspection in September 2019, Coventry College has been on a major transformation to safeguard its future as a standalone institution. The need to secure its future financially was imperative and this required a campus consolidation strategy to be executed effectively.”
The spokesperson told FE Week that the FE Commissioner’s team had described the college’s improvements as “one of the best turnarounds in the sector”.
But they added: “We had been through a robust self-assessment process and were aware of the strengths and weaknesses at Coventry College, particularly the challenges faced across some areas of our provision.
“We are fully committed to continuing to invest in the resources and strategies required to secure improvements in all areas at the next Ofsted inspection.”
[UPDATE: After this article was published the college told FE Week the principal’s salary stated in its accounts includes an additional contribution for relocation benefits, which are approved annually and not guaranteed. The principal’s basic salary is actually £141,000 and has not changed in the past two years.]