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Government review for Newton Rigg College

A new strategic review coordinated by the Further Education Commissioner to explore proposals for the future potential use of Askham Bryan College’s Newton Rigg Campus will get underway next month.

Newton Rigg, in Penrith, Cumbria, is earmarked for closure in July 2021 following an earlier independent review, led by the Further Education Commissioner, of educational provision at the campus and in the local area.

Since Askham Bryan College’s governing body announced in May 2020 that it had taken the difficult decision, in principle, to stop delivering education and training at Newton Rigg from July 2021, several interested parties have approached the College with proposals for the future use of the site.

As a result of these approaches, the Further Education Commissioner (FEC), Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and the College’s governing body have decided to undertake a strategic review of the proposals so that the merits of each one can be fully explored.

The strategic review will be coordinated by the FEC team and begin in July 2020 through an assigned steering group. It will specifically explore proposals and expressions of interest from various parties for the future potential use of Newton Rigg.

This is different to the previous Newton Rigg Review, coordinated by the FEC team that ran from March 2020 until May 2020, which was focussed on educational provision at the campus and in the local area.

The objectives of the new strategic review are to promote the opportunity and test the ability of any interested parties to fund and deliver their detailed business plan and proposals for the site.

The FEC team will co-ordinate all interest and update involved parties on the various stages of the latest strategic review. In terms of the process, expressions of interest will be considered and assessed against set criteria over the summer period.

If no parties meet the expressions of interest criteria, then the review process is likely to be completed by the end of summer 2020. If parties do successfully meet the criteria, then a detailed business plan and proposal bid would need to be submitted during this autumn term.

The FEC team plan to conclude the full review process for any bids put forward by early December 2020, with the outcomes subsequently presented to Askham Bryan College’s governing body, so that any potential transfer of ownership could take place in time for the beginning of September 2021.

Around 117 staff and 888 learners are based at Newton Rigg Campus. They include 667 further education students, the majority of whom are enrolled on one-year programmes, and 221 apprentices. Student recruitment and enrolment, and courses for the next academic year, from September 2020 to July 2021, are continuing as planned.

The decision in principle to close Newton Rigg Campus remains in place, and the consultation with 117 staff affected and the trade unions, which began on May 21st 2020 and is anticipated to take at least 45 days, is continuing.

A final decision on whether Askham Bryan College will stop providing educational provision at the campus in July 2021, will be made following the completion of the statutory consultation process involving staff and the trade unions. The final decision by the governing body is due to be taken in July 2020.

Tim Whitaker, Chief Executive Officer and Principal, Askham Bryan College

Tim Whitaker, Chief Executive Officer and Principal, Askham Bryan College, said: “We understand the strength of feeling about Newton Rigg, and are committed to supporting the strategic review given the interest expressed in the potential future use of the site.”

He explained: “The statutory consultation process with Newton Rigg staff and the trade unions is continuing and is unaffected by the strategic review of proposals from interested parties. The College anticipates taking a final decision on its involvement in the future of Newton Rigg this July 2020.

“We regret putting staff at risk of redundancy and are doing all we can to support colleagues at this difficult time. However, following the Newton Rigg review the College Corporation concluded that the campus is not financially viable and would require ongoing investment to keep pace with industry skills.”

Neil Hudson MP

Dr Neil Hudson, MP stated “I am thrilled that as a result of my meetings with them that the Further Education Minister and Further Education Commissioner have decided to undertake this Strategic Review of the College. Colleges such as Newton Rigg are not only integral to their local and regional communities but in this case, it is vital for the national economy. I am glad that Askham Bryan have agreed to this process which will allow the Further Education Commissioner to fully evaluate the exciting proposals for  Newton Rigg and I truly believe it will help in securing a viable and sustainable future for the campus. I have raised Newton Rigg on a number of occasions in the House of Commons and really feel we are now gathering momentum for a positive outcome.”

Newton Rigg was established in 1896 to serve the needs of agricultural and rural industries in Cumbria. Since incorporation in 1992, Newton Rigg has been owned or governed by four different corporations including two universities.Courses currently provided include agriculture, gamekeeping, animal and equine management, forestry, horticulture and agricultural engineering. The campus also offers general further education courses such as uniformed public services, sport, hairdressing and beauty therapy, childhood studies and health and social care.Askham Bryan College’s main campus is near York. It also has campuses at Middlesbrough, Newcastle Gateshead, Saltaire and Wakefield. In terms of new Newton Rigg students starting in September 2020, the College would work in partnership with other FE colleges to map progression routes beyond 2021.

For more background information on the first Newton Rigg Review earlier this year, please visit: https://www.askham-bryan.ac.uk/news/newton-rigg-review-update

To read FAQS, please visit https://www.askham-bryan.ac.uk/the-college/media-enquiries/newton-rigg-review-faq

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