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Askham Bryan defends Newton Rigg Campus closure decision in EFRA Parliamentary Select Committee

Date: 29th April 2021

Askham Bryan College has strongly defended its difficult decision to close Newton Rigg Campus in its response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Parliamentary Select Committee published today – April 29th, 2021.

College leaders were invited to voluntarily attend a ‘non-inquiry session’ on March 23rd, 2021, and provide evidence on the future of national land based education including the reasons for 
deciding to close Newton Rigg Campus in Penrith, Cumbria, this July 2021.

During the meeting, Tim Whitaker, Chief Executive Officer and Principal, and Judith Clapham, Director of Governance, answered questions from MPs about the Newton Rigg closure and agreed to submit supplementary written evidence following the virtual meeting.

In its response to the EFRA Committee, the College has addressed claims about the asset deed and financial position of Newton Rigg Campus and associated demographic data.

• To read the College’s written evidence, please visit the EFRA Committee website: https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/26021/pdf/

• To read Gillian Keegan MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Education’s response, that includes explaining the asset deed, please visit: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/5711/documents/56310/default/

Tim Whitaker, Chief Executive Officer and Principal, Askham Bryan College, said: “We regret the impact of the difficult closure decision on our Newton Rigg Campus students and staff and understand that feelings continue to run high within the Cumbrian community and beyond. It is very disappointing that a sustainable solution for Newton Rigg Campus has not been found.

“We welcomed discussing the future of national land based education with the EFRA Committee given our expertise within the sector, and we also welcomed the opportunity to respond to some misleading claims about the closure of our Cumbrian campus.

“Our response confirms that the College has never had the power to nullify the asset deed, therefore, the College did not nullify the deed when it acquired the Newton Rigg site in 2011 and, as an independent, self-governing organisation and exempt charity, we are legally able to continue with the Newton Rigg Campus closure and sale.”

He added: “The College strongly refutes asset stripping claims having invested £4.4 million in capital and incurring substantial losses supporting the site.  For 10 years we have strived to make the provision of education at Newton Rigg Campus sustainable and heavily subsidised the site during that time but, regrettably, it is not viable. Since 1992, four other educational organisations have also tried but not been able to make Newton Rigg sustainable and no obvious alternative providers have been identified since the decision to close was taken.

“We have a responsibility to invest in and ensure the very best experience for all Askham Bryan College students across all our campuses. Although Askham Bryan College has faced financial challenges that are common across the further education sector, it has not required formal government and financial intervention from the Education and Skills Funding Agency. We are doing all we can to support our Newton Rigg students and staff at this difficult time.”

There are 536 learners based at Newton Rigg this academic year and they are being supported with careers information, advice and guidance to help them plan their next steps including course options locally and regionally.

This includes the new revised land based offer announced last month by a new partnership between Myerscough College and Ullswater Community College which is also based in Penrith. Kendal College are also offering an additional, complementary range of courses.

College staff have been informed, since February 2021, about preparations for the sale process and they have been updated today on the confirmed date when Newton Rigg Campus and Sewborwens Farm, in Penrith, and Low Beckside Farm, in Mungrisdale, are being put up for sale through Savills Estate Agents, which is from Tuesday, May 4th, 2021 onwards.

The College followed a rigorous, 18-month independent review process of its Cumbrian campus which involved sector experts and was led by the Further Education Commissioner. The review process concluded that the closure of Newton Rigg Campus was the only viable option open to the College. The process, which was completed in February 2021, was also unable to find an appropriate alternative education provider to take over the site.

Student recruitment to the College’s York Campus remains buoyant with a 13% rise in enrolments for 16-19 year olds this academic year. The College has also attracted additional external investment as part of its involvement with projects such as the Institute of Technology, Digital Skills Academy and BioYorkshire.

For background information, visit: https://www.askham-bryan.ac.uk/the-college/media-enquiries/newton-rigg-review-faq

 

CONTACT:  Mary Hampshire, Public Relations Consultant.

Email: mary@maryhampshire.com. Telephone: 07985 779078

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Askham Bryan College,
Askham Bryan,
York,
YO23 3FR
01904 772277
enquiries@askham-bryan.ac.uk