Thursday, December 1, 2016

News: Rotherham colleges focus on future following review

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The final report of a Government review into post-16 education and training across the Sheffield city region (SCR) has confirmed the recommendations regarding the future of Rotherham colleges.

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.

Since concluding its Area Based Review in June 2016, the recommendation that Dearne Valley College (DVC) should join forces with the RNN Group - which is made up of Rotherham and North Nottinghamshire Colleges - has progressed with outline merger proposals going out for consultation in September.

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.

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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.

It follows on from the merger in February 2016 that saw Rotherham College of Arts and Technology (RCAT) merge with North Nottinghamshire College to form the RNN Group, creating a single general FE college.

The report includes an assessment of the finances of the two colleges that shows that a merger of RNN and DVC would provide a large college with a clear prospect of meeting benchmarks.

It is not anticipated that the merger, scheduled for February 1 2017, will lead to compulsory redundancies of teaching staff, as there are no proposals to reduce the curriculum offer or to close any of the campuses but the report adds that possibilities for rationalising estates are being considered.

The review also recommended that Thomas Rotherham College (TRC) should look at joining a multi academy trust. The Rotherham sixth-form college, which has had a growing technical education offer over recent years, has been looking at partnerships and academy trust models to improve the quality of the offer to pupils and students at all ages, and increase their own financial resilience.

The corporation at TRC was due to meet this month in order to make an "in principle" decision on whether to join a multi-academy trusts with local schools or pursue an alternative option. Due diligence on the costs and nature of post-16 provision in the trust model are being carried out.

Nigel Brewster, vice chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), chaired the City Region's Area Based Review. He said: "Local partners in Sheffield City Region are working together to drive forward the transformational changes set out in our Area Based Review. The hard work begins now as partners jointly work through due diligence on the recommendations to ensure that our Further Education sector can deliver the best outcomes for residents, businesses and ultimately the economic growth that our city region is striving to achieve."

Despite a recommendation to merge, Doncaster College's Board of Governors decided not to pursue the merger with Barnsley College.

DVC website
RNN Group website
TRC website

Images: RNN Group


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