Friday, September 30, 2016

News: Rotherham college merger proposed

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A recommendation that Dearne Valley College (DVC) should join forces with the RNN Group - which is made up of Rotherham and North Nottinghamshire Colleges - is set to be taken up early next year as the two Rotherham-based institutions outline merger proposals.

The colleges believe that the merged organisation would offer school leavers the widest range of college courses, apprenticeships and higher education provision within the region, and would educate and train more 16 to 18-year-olds than any other school or organisation in the area, whilst working with over a thousand companies offering specialised training and apprenticeships to support business growth and success.

Under the proposals, DVC's Manvers campus would continue under the name of Dearne Valley College but will become part of a family of organisations supported by the RNN Group, encompassing three further education colleges and five training providers, with a projected annual turnover in excess of £50m.

The move follows the merger between the Rotherham and North Nottinghamshire Colleges earlier this year. It saw 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 and the statutory notice for the latest merger again shows how DVC would be dissolved after it joins the RNN Group on February 1 2017.

The proposals, now out for consultation, were recommended in a Government review into post-16 education and training across the Sheffield city region (SCR).

The Government is undergoing a restructuring of the further education sector leading to "fewer, larger, more resilient and efficient providers" as it believes that substantial change is required to deliver its education objectives while maintaining tight fiscal discipline.

In addition to the expansion of the apprenticeship programme, reform is proposed to ensure there are high quality professional and technical routes to employment, alongside robust academic routes; and that there is a better responsiveness to local employer needs and economic priorities.

Specific challenges were identified, including a falling numbers of 16–18 year olds, potentially risking the range of courses the colleges can offer, projected public funding cuts for at least the next three years, potentially reducing capacity, and limitations on available funds for significant investment.

The colleges hope to overcome the challenges together as a larger group and better meet the needs of the Sheffield city region (SCR) which needs to raise skill levels and productivity levels.

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Martin Harrison, principal and chief executive at DVC (pictured, left), said: "After some in-depth discussions about the opportunities and challenges we may face in the future, we are delighted to put forward a proposal for Dearne Valley College and the RNN Group to merge, offering an even stronger provision of high-quality and effective training, courses and apprenticeships for school leavers, higher education students, adult learners and businesses. It will also enable us to invest further in our students with additional resources and facilities. Students who are already enrolled with us at Dearne Valley College would not be affected by the merger, and all existing courses would continue to be taught at our Manvers campus."

John Connolly, chief executive at the RNN Group (pictured, right), added: "By pooling our resources, the knowledge of our industry-experienced staff and employer links, we can offer a breadth of provision to ensure students are reaching their career aspirations and contributing to the economy and local community. The proposed merger between two Ofsted "Good" organisations will place us in a strong position for the future."

The enlarged RNN Group would have campuses in Rotherham town centre, Wath-upon-Dearne, Dinnington, Worksop and Retford. Plans are also progressing for a higher education campus in Rotherham town centre.

The prospectus states that the merger will benefit local employers as a larger provider will be able 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 be a single point of contact, to make managing training easier.

It adds: "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."

The corresponding chairs of the colleges, outlined in the prospectus: "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 where 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 singleminded focus on quality, standards and excellence."

DVC website
RNN Group website

Images: RNN Group


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