FE commissioner to visit Barnfield College

Barnfield College campus in New Bedford Road, Luton.
Barnfield College campus in New Bedford Road, Luton.

The Further Education Commissioner will be spending the next two weeks at Barnfield College as part of the recent Skills Funding Agency (SfA) investigation.

The FE Commissioner, Dr David Collins CBE, is responsible for driving improvement at failing colleges and has the power to shut them down.

A joint SfA and Department for Education investigation into Barnfield College was launched in September and although a report was initially thought to be published within six to eight weeks, it is now expected at the end of this month.

Judy Oliver, Acting Chair of the Barnfield Federation Board, said: “Both the management and Governors of the college will be fully engaged with the Commissioner and his team; the Board of Governors remain fully committed to building on improvements that are already under way and to make further changes where appropriate.

“Therefore no further statement is expected to be made until the publication of the report due at the end of this month.”

The role of the FE Commissioner was created by the Government last year as part of the Department for Education’s plan to improve colleges.

Duties of the FE Commissioner were set out in the Rigour and Responsiveness in Skills report, published in April 2013 and include the ability to replace some or all of the governing body and/or dissolve the college.

The FE Commissioner is called in by the SfA if the college’s performance has fallen below minimum standards.

He then acts on behalf of the government and reports to ministers to advice them throughout the intervention process.

Within a two week time frame, the FE Commissioner will review the position of the college, holding discussions with the college governors, the principal, local stakeholders and the agencies.

He will advise ministers the best course of action to take, which could include giving the college a new ‘Administered College’ status, in which colleges will lose freedoms and flexibilities while they are turned around, including restructuring or competition for new providers following a Structure and Prospects Appraisal; and/or the replacement of some or all of the governing body; and/or college dissolution.