Tuesday, August 25, 2015

News: Rotherham College merger plans

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Rotherham College of Arts and Technology and North Nottinghamshire College are proposing to merge into one organisation on February 1 2016.

The proposals, out for consultation this week, have been described as "a positive and deliberate strategy to deliver a stronger local skills offer in a climate when the stability of individual colleges may be challenged in the future."

Combined as the RNN Group, all the campuses will remain and retain their existing local identities. Rotherham College has facilities in Rotherham town centre and Dinnington whilst North Notts has facilities in Worksop and Retford.

With falling numbers of 16–18 year olds, potentially risking the range of courses the colleges can offer, there are also projected public funding cuts for at least the next three years, potentially reducing capacity.

Seeking to undertake significant structural change, North Notts has undertaken a Structure and Prospects Appraisal which recommended the merger. Rotherham College has completed the due diligence.

Both rated as "Good" by OFSTED in 2013, the proposed merger will create a single college with an annual turnover in excess of £46m. The increased scale of the new college will enable it to offer enhanced opportunities for learners, employers, communities and staff. Other benefits include pooling expertise and good practice, greater strategic and managerial capacity, opportunities for a wider curriculum strategy and greater economies of scale and efficiencies.

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The official statutory notice details that the proposed merger involves the transfer of the property, rights and liabilities to the Corporation of Rotherham College of Arts and Technology and the subsequent dissolution of the Further Education Corporation of North Nottinghamshire College.

Rotherham College took on a similar role in the merger with Rother Valley College in 2004.

The proposals come at the same time as Rotherham College continues with ambitious plans to double the size of the HE population in three years. Plans for a £12m campus on the site of the former Doncaster Gate hospital in the town centre are being developed.

For employers, both businesses and the public sector, creating a larger provider is set to enable the group to: be more responsive to specific training needs; offer a wider range of training and apprenticeship frameworks; provide more co-investment opportunities to meet skills needs; link employers with a large bank of work-ready students; and create a single point of contact, to make managing training easier.

Atholl Stott, chair of North Nottinghamshire College and Ken Barrass, chair of Rotherham College, said in the consultation document: "The decision of the two Corporations to submit this proposal reflects a positive and deliberate strategy to deliver a stronger local skills offer in a climate when the stability of individual colleges may be challenged in the future. The Boards and senior teams have recognised the strength and opportunities created by a single, larger college with one vision, one area-wide curriculum and a single-minded focus on quality, standards and excellence."

The documents add: "It is not anticipated that the merger will directly necessitate compulsory redundancies of teaching staff, as there are no proposals to reduce the curriculum offer or to close any of the campuses. Over time, some rationalisation of other functions may be possible, mostly through natural turnover.

"Any restructuring which does prove necessary will be subject to the transparent consultation and communication processes, which have been adopted in the past by both colleges."

The formal consultation runs to October 2 with stakeholder meetings set to be held in September.

Rotherham College website

Images: Rotherham College

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