Ian Pretty

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Statement on ONS Reclassification

The ONS has decided to reclassify FE colleges as public sector organisations. This does not come as a major surprise, given the previous decision in 2012 was an evenly balanced one and the new powers of intervention extended to the Secretary of State since 2012 have tipped the balance toward a return to a public sector classification.

For Collab Group Colleges, returning to the public sector now raises several serious questions around the future of the college sector in an increasingly challenging economic environment where we are already seeing some smaller colleges heading into financial distress and no new money for the sector coming out of the Autumn Statement. These include immediate concerns around:

  • minimising the disruption and displacement time for colleges as we migrate to the public sector.
  • long-term capital funding arrangements for estate and to ensure equipment is industry standard – the £150 million for next year announced by Government today is simply a replacement of one funding source with another and is a consequence of the reclassification. The sector needs a robust long-term approach to capital investment.
  • the continued ability to attract talent and high-quality leaders to run what is the UK’s vocational sector and critical to the country’s future economic success.
  • ensuring an effective college governance framework which remains independent of Ministers.

Collab Group stands ready to engage with the HM Treasury and the Department for Education to tackle these challenges and unlock the potential of our members to level up skills and productivity across the country.

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