Newton Rigg Review Update: December 2020
Date: 17th December 2020
“Final element” of extended Newton Rigg Strategic Review announced by the Further Education Commissioner team
The Further Education Commissioner (FEC) team, led by a land-based specialist has been co-ordinating a Newton Rigg Strategic Review in conjunction with Askham Bryan College and officials from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and Eden District Council; this review which began in June, has been exploring options for finding a potential new owner for the site.
The objectives of the Newton Rigg Strategic Review were to promote the opportunity and test the ability of any interested parties to fund and deliver detailed business plan and proposals for the site.
The Strategic Review received initial expressions of interest from a number of parties at the end of August, and has subsequently been working with two main parties over the last few months in order to complete the second stage of the process of submitting detailed business plans. In order to give the process and parties the best chance for success, the FEC and officials from ESFA have also hosted additional workshops on meeting the criteria for success, including briefings on further education funding and finance.
The Strategic Review has now concluded its work and informed Askham Bryan College’s Corporation (Thursday 17 December) that neither of the bidding parties were able to meet the expectations and criteria set by the Strategic Review, in order to secure the long-term success of a potential new college or provider for students in the future. Therefore, the Strategic Reviews recommendation to Askham Bryan Corporation was that they should not accept either bid, and that the Corporation should subsequently proceed with plans for Askham Bryan College’s closure of the site by July 2021.
However, the FEC and ESFA have also proposed to the Corporation that they will work with the local MP, Dr Neil Hudson, Eden District Council, the Local Enterprise Partnership and other stakeholders to establish whether they can secure some form of reduced, alternative educational delivery based at the Newton Rigg site, likely to be focussed on land based education.
This process will be time-limited, concluding early in the new year, and discussions will focus on whether parties can demonstrate that they are able to purchase a reduced part of the Newton Rigg campus, and deliver a sustainable land based educational solution.
These discussions will take place alongside Askham Bryan College proceeding itself to find a buyer or multiple buyers for elements of its site at Newton Rigg, Penrith.
Principal and CEO Tim Whitaker said, “We have fully engaged with the Strategic Review to find a new owner for the Newton Rigg site. We have shared detailed information with all interested parties, as indeed we have with all key stakeholders.
We had all hoped that the process would conclude in the Strategic Review steering group receiving a successful submission, and so I understand the sense of disappointment amongst staff, students and stakeholders, particularly given the timing of the review concluding just before the Christmas break.”
Tim Whitaker added, “We will help support this final element of the Strategic Review in any way we can, as we have fully supported the full strategic review process. However, ultimately, it’s the organisations that will potentially be delivering some form of education and training at Newton Rigg that must now drive proposals, as it would be inappropriate for us to dictate what the model would look like when we won’t be involved in delivering it.”
Askham Bryan College acquired Newton Rigg Campus in 2011. Since then, the College has invested considerable funds and absorbed financial losses.
Tim Whitaker added, “Given that the College is an exempt charity, the governors, as trustees, now have a legal obligation to secure the best outcome for the charity.”
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