College forced to consider merger following subcontracting row

A Somerset college could be forced to consider a merger after it was revealed its future has been thrown into doubt as result of flawed subcontracts.

A government audit found the Strode College in Street used contractors which made students work illegal hours on traineeships.

As a result of the situation a significant clawback fee is now being demanded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency

The FE Commissioner has published an intervention report today for Strode College which has labelled the colleges financial health as inadequate.

The college has not published accounts for the past two years but it works with around 4,000 learners and had an income of less than £17m in 2021.

Traineeships make up a significant amount of revenues at the college.

The college, which has launched legal action against the subcontractors involved, cannot repay the traineeship clawback in the short to medium term.

The FE Commissioner’s report said the “sustainability of the college is of concern and has outlined a number of strategic options.

Principal John Revill took up his post two years ago and discovered the problem on his first day in the role.

He said: “The college is solvent and financially sound, our issue is around how sustainable the college’s finances are in four or five years’ time considering it is a small college.

“We have cash in the bank and there are no concerns in the short to medium term. The SPA will look at the viability of the college in the future.”

A number of options are on the table including a merger or partnerships with other colleges.

He added: “Whilst the past couple of years have been challenging for our leadership team, our priority has always been, and continues to be, ensuring the highest standards for our learners.

“We are very positive and focused on moving forward – with the aim to further improve our provision for learners, meet the needs of employers and secure our future.”